Suspicion, stories and freedom are at the heart of Dermot Murphy’s play – but does it try too hard to keep the audience’s attention?
Zhora wants to escape the idea of an arranged marriage, while Miguel wants to escape being captive – but they have to try and work together to make it possible – if they can trust each other.
This is something that isn’t really resolved in this complicated and detailed play that confronts the ideas of women’s identities, politics and religion set in 1578 and 1580. It confronts a lot of topics during the running time of one hour and forty minutes but it feels as though none of the conflicts between the characters are really resolved satisfactorily.
It is a shame because in Franko Figueiredo’s production there is a great intensity throughout that keeps the audience guessing as to whether Miguel is genuine or has lost a sense of reality during his years of captivity, keeping them engrossed in the story right until the very end.
Stand out performances are provided by Alvaro Flores as Miguel, whose mannerisms and storytelling abilities are delivered with great precision and intensity that change constantly wrong foot the audience about who he really is. Meanwhile, Rachel Summers as Zohra delivers a passionate performance as a headstrong daughter who desires freedom to live life as she chooses – although her naivety can get her in to troubled waters, particularly when her father discovers what she has been learning to read with Miguel.
Essentially it is a story about relationships. Miguel’s relationship with everyone is constantly on the edge of a knife, never knowing which way it is going to turn, while Zohra and Si Ali’s relationship becomes increasingly fractious – leading to a horrific incident towards the end that reveals just how far they have both been pushed.
Perhaps because of Murphy putting so many elements into the play it can tend to feel slightly rushed and doesn’t give the audience enough time to get to grips with the characters and their motivations for their actions that lets the production down slightly.
However, the intimacy and intensity of the production succeeds in grabbing attention and to holding it right until the very end. It is just lacking in enough clarity in terms of the story to make much of an impact.
Don Quixote in Algiers will continue to play at the White Bear Theatre until the 4th March. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://whitebeartheatre.co.uk/play/don-quixote-in-algiers/