Hijinx Theatre recently performed a short run of The Adventures of Sancho Panza, inspired by the epic tale Don Quixote, to venues around the UK. Tom Wentworth saw the show at the Riverfront in Newport.
I suspect that you’ve heard the story of Don Quixote but do you remember his faithful squire Sancho? No? Well, Hijinx Theatre Company’s touring production has put him centre stage in a magical tale of adventure and mayhem.
The company have built a strong reputation for creating accessible and engaging performances but I couldn’t help but wonder whether I really wanted to see a another re-telling of the Don Quixote story. I couldn’t have been more mistaken as during this performance contained music, dance and outstanding comic performances. I was transported to another place, as a very willing passenger alongside Sancho as he rides off on his donkey (represented by a ukulele), next to Don Quixote’s fine stallion (a double bass!)
As the production opens we find that we are mourners at a funeral but fear not this is far from a gloomy production. Fast paced and engaging; the show uses a deceptively simple but highly effective set by designer Mary Drummond, which includes great rolls of paper which become everything from the wind-blown trees to a ditch.
Written by Glenys Evans the script contains plenty of laughs and a good number of more poignant moments but above all manages to never lose sight of the story at the heart of this piece. From the audience reaction around me it was clear that everyone was really rooting for Sancho.
This is very much due to the performances of the talented, integrated cast who appeared to be having a wonderful time performing the show, conveying a warmth for each other and for the audience. However, it’s Gareth Clark as Sancho who steals not only the performance but also, I am reliably informed, the hearts of many of the female audience members! His obvious gift for comedy and his sense of timing was demonstrated at every opportunity and proved to be a delight from beginning to end. Certainly a rising star.
Director James Williams has used the idea of storytelling and imagination within his production to create theatre which is both visual and surprising in a world where books are birds, windmills seem beautiful and marriages are repaired by standing on books. He is also responsible for composing the music throughout which adds yet another layer and is often performed by Maxwell James singing and providing excellent accompaniment on his guitar, as well as often being a friend for the audience.
Yet again, Hijinx have proved that they can create theatre suitable for all the family. This will live in my memory for a long time to come as the best laugh I’ve had for ages as an audience member.
The only cloud surrounding this production is that it isn’t visiting more venues for a longer time, and crucially to much larger audiences. However, I’m pleased that the production will be touring again in Spring 2013 – Sancho rides on!
Hijinx Theatre’s inclusive community drama group, Odyssey, are performing 'Whispers on the Waves' at the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre on 6th & 7th December at 7pm, and 8th December at 2.30pm & 7pm.
Tickets are £6 and available to book in person from the Wales Millennium Centre ticket office, over the telephone on 029 20 636464, or online at http://www.wmc.org.uk