Don Quijote is like having just gone to a really good party.
It starts at the bit just after 2am, the bit where only the best are left, and there is warmth and excitement among the few who remain, some in fragments of costume still. There are snapshots that you remember so clearly; scraps of torn page flying through the air, someone playing guitar in a pink light, a monkey tail and an awkward phone call, like the flickering memories of the very best gently drunken night. There is the feeling as you finally leave into the night that someone in the room might go on to change the world.
The audience sit on cushions on the floor. When Don Quijote began, with shadow puppetry across the walls, I thought that maybe the space at CPT was wrong for the show. This didn’t really work, things weren’t being done justice here. By the end, the space felt so brilliantly perfect. This is a show that makes you part of it, and the setting down in the weirdly shaped basement of CPT makes it feel conspiratorial; a meeting to start the rebellion. They even destroy a few books, which hurts in all the ways it should.
I have not read Don Quijote The Book. Given that is a massive book and I am currently quite whole-heartedly dedicated to earnest YA fiction, I imagine I will never find time. This does not matter, because really Don Quijote The Show is not about the book. The book, and more its creation, are springboards for a cosy nudge towards rebellion.
Don Quijote The Book was written by Cervantes while he was in prison, following a few years of enslavement and getting his arm lopped off. It is about Don Quijote, who lost his marbles but still tried to be one of the world’s greats. It is a story created through suffering, but one that offers glimmers of optimism.
The point of all this, of the flying petals and the Flamenco and the monkey costume, is to tell you to change things. It’s saying that accepting the way things are in life can surely not be as good as hoping for them to be better, or trying to make them better, even if it makes you seem like you’re off your rocker or it lands you in shit.
It’s a bit overly romantic, a bit heavy handed in its message. But when you go to a party and you get to the bit when only the best people are left, it is likely these are the conversations where you feel set alight. These are the conversations that make you think it can all happen, and if it goes wrong at least you will go down in a blaze of glory. These conversations, it is likely, are also with people of the same liberal, left leaning ilk as you, and it is the support and the safety of those that allows you to feel this glimmer of hope. That’s really what this Don Quijote is, it is a fun and funny gathering in a basement, probably of likeminded people, to tell you to hope and to offer you the support and a space to do so.
Maybe this all sounds a bit wanky and pretentious, but I am a 24 year old living in Britain in 2015 with a government I do not support; it could be worse, but it would be wrong for me not to see that it could be better.
Camden People’s Theatre, Part of Suspense 2015