Writers: Tirso De Molina (translation by Sean O’Brien)
Director: Mehmet Ergen
Reviewer: Joan Phillips
Don Gil of the Green Breeches is a romantic comedy set in 17th century Spain. The main character, Donna Juana (played by Heddyd Dylan), has fallen head over heels in love with the sweet talking Don Martin (Doug Rao). However, when Donna Juana learns that Don Martin has set off to Madrid to woo the wealthy Donna Ines (Katie Lightfoot), she decides to follow in search of regaining her lost love or at least ruining his plans.
So as not to alert Donna Juana and her family to his plans, Don Martin now calls himself Don Gil. Donna Juana’s plan is to also call herself Don Gil. Dressing herself as a man and wearing bright green breeches, she pursues her lover to Madrid. So starts the chain of misunderstandings, deceptions, mistaken identities, scheming plans and foiled plots that sustain the play and provide the laughs for this hilarious romantic farce.
The delight in this production comes from the situations and the characters. Chris Andrew Mellon as Quintana, Donna Juana’s loyal servant, only has to suck his cheeks in, wring his hands and sigh, to cause a ripple of laughter in the audience. Simon Scardifield is hilarious as the ‘nice but dim’ ineffectual suitor to Donna Ines. From the first moment he makes his appearance on stage his body language alone tells you his attempts to win her love are hopelessly doomed. Annie Hemingway is very funny as Donna Clara a bespectacled and unlikely recipient of Don Gil’s attentions. Jim Bywater provides great comic support as the smart, but confused, servant to Donna Juana’s Don Gil.
The levels of disguise and deception increase as the play progresses. Half way through Donna Ines is forced to explain the plot so far to her father, Don Pedro (played by William Hoyland). It must take what seems like 50 lines and yet she manages it in all its complexity without a single pause to take breath – the applause for Katie Lightfoot is well earned. By the time the storyline gets to the final stages even the main characters are confused. Don Gil has romanced yet more victims, but which Don Gil? And how many Don Gils are there?
Translated by Sean O’Brien from the original Spanish play by Tirso De Molina, in this production even the translation itself forms part of the comedy. As the script explains, you pronounce the ‘G’ in ‘Gil’ like the ‘h’ in ‘hil’, as in ‘Benny Hill’.
Don Gil of the Green Breeches is one of three plays forming the Spanish Golden Age Season running at the Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath. A Lady of Little Sense and Punishment Without Revenge both by Lope de Vega make up the trio. The plays are performed in rotation, sometimes on successive days, and the ten strong cast rise to the challenge. One a devastating tragedy and the other two comedies, all three plays are rarely staged and have been curated by Laurence Boswell.
Runs until 21st December 2013.