Don Gil of the Green Breeches, Arcola Theatre 9 January

****

A pensive Don Gil in Bath, but still the wonderful Hedydd Dylan

A pensive Don Gil in Bath, but still the wonderful Hedydd Dylan

This was a preview, or even a preview of a preview, but it wasn’t since the three plays of The Spanish Golden Age had already had an extended run-out in Bath.  As one would, I was expecting a kind of Shakespeare without the poetry or psychological probing, and indeed we did get Rosalind, very tall and dressed in green.  Here she was Doña Juana, whose beloved Don Martin has left her in Valladolid  to go to Madrid and make an advantageous marriage with Doña Ines.  But he has to call himself  Don Gil.  So she has to go to Madrid herself disguised as another Don Gil so as to outwit the stupid men and other second-tier comic characters and reclaim her true love.  But she wears green breeches, so she has to be the special Don Gil.  (Plot summary here.)  Remember that women cannot help falling in love with a delicate stranger, in Madrid or anywhere else…

It turned out that Tirso de Molina’s strengths here lay in keeping the exuberantly silly plot moving swiftly and convincingly and in providing excuses for the appearance of many green Don Gils of different sexes.  The audience found it very funny, and applauded enthusiastically at the end to make up for their lack of numbers.  Indeed, I could even sit  in one of the two rows that give you a frontal view of the production (and the row behind seemed to be playing host to the claque, while director  Mehmet Ergan had exiled himself to the outer reaches of the bleachers).

This blog heartily recommends Don Gil of the Green Breeches–it could easily reach five-star level with a few more outings in its new home.

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