Hijinx Theatre Company has been recently touring Wales again with their unique take on the classic tale, staged as part of the Unity Festival at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. Tom Wentworth saw the recently revived version performed this inclusive theatre company
I was both thrilled and delighted to see Gareth Clark making the role of Sancho Panza his own. He portrays him as a ‘cheeky chappy’ kind of hero who instantly warms the audience up and is truly a star. Alongside Gareth Wyn Griffiths as Don Quixote, they make a terrifically amusing double act, as they ride proudly on their Double Bass and Ukelele (that’s horse and a donkey to you and me!)
Glenys Evans' script has pace and wit, which alongside the engaging quest element, make this a very fast past feast of action for a family audience. However, it isn’t all gags. Panza and Quixote’s mission to find their way through a world full of problems could easily seen as a metaphor for the various problems that we may encounter in our everyday lives, but director James Williams’ production never imposes views upon its audience or seeks to preach amongst the story or the songs (performed with a particularly engaging voice by Rowan Talbot.)
The production’s opening and closing number is an excellent way of engaging the audience with the somewhat darker framing device of the play – which opens as Tom (who within his fantasy world becomes Sancho Panza) and his mother are grieving for his dead father. This forms a strong through-line throughout in a production which otherwise could easily be perceived as either frivolous or vacuous in some way.
Anyone who sees this production will surely remember the imagery created with paper. Mary Drummond's set uses great rolls of paper which are pulled down to form everything from high mountains to sashes; and books, which seemingly fly to become birds. This device is also mirrored through the language of the piece as Don Quixote is described as a knight who is made out of paper as he returns to the world inside the book at the end of the production.
It was a real treat to be able to see this inclusive production for a second time. It continues to be a magical, funny, family-friendly adventure which both engages and excites. You can’t fail to feel elated. I really hope that audiences will eagerly support the work that Hijinx is doing.