Review: Don Gil of the Green Breeches, Arcola Theatre ✭✭✭✭

At one point during Don Gil of Green Breeches, the most beautiful woman in Madrid, Donna Innes, shrieks “Now Sir, you must remember all you have heard!” right after running full pelt through an explanation of the wildly complex plot to her bemused father. It’s one of the funniest moments in the play, and the most reassuring, for the story of Don Gil is devilishly complex, so much so that the production is confident to regularly mock its outlandish twists, serving as great comfort for my tiny perplexed mind. This play is supposed to addle your brain, but not without delighting it too!

Mehmet Ergen’s production is filled with charm and atmosphere. Two servants dance across the stage, setting chests and barrels to the rhythm of flamenco guitar, colouring everything with a hint of romance between them.
Detail like this is abundant adding vibrancy to proceedings, and once the second act kicks in; the confusion of the plot melts away and almost becomes a distraction to the riotous fun on offer as a plethora of green breeched suitors parade in the moonlight.

Mark Bailey’s set design is conservative and flexible, whilst Ben Ormerod’s lighting design in intricate and subtle, managing to capture both the Spanish sun and the soft moonlight.

Sean O’Brien’s translation is mature, and knowing, but never takes itself too seriously, continually giving a nudge and a wink to the audience. Yet there is a feeling that something is lacking still. The production feels over anglicised; yes the play is filled with Spanish names and locations, and it climaxes with an obligatory Flamenco dance, but the Spanish Golden Age banner under which this play is performed feels marginally redundant.

That aside, the performances are excellent! The entire company has bounce, energy and fantastic pace. Hedydd Dylan is a joy to watch as she moves from spurned lover, to unlikely beardless boy. Her manservant Quintana is another highlight and has some immensely rib tickling moments. Helping his mistress heap lie upon lie, Chris Andrew Mellon’s asides, almost bi-polar in their delivery, are spectacularly funny.

Whilst it lacks an intrinisic Spanish quality, once you get over the complicated plot Don Gil of the Green Breeches manages to take
Tirso de Molina’s text and spin a fantastic show filled with misdirection, confusion and laughter. The first in this trio of Spanish plays at the Arcola certainly manages to strike gold.

**** (4stars)
Runs until 15th March 2014
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