If you think the Spanish Golden Age has something to do with Lionel Messi’s tax return, this mini-season of seventeenth-century Iberian drama probbaly isn’t for you.
It kicks off with Tirso de Molina’s rom-com 'Don Gil of the Green Breeches', which is half Shakespeare comedy, half Ray Cooney farce. In it, leading lady Donna Juana is tracking down the cad who ditched her for a rich debutante in Madrid. Hot on the miscreant's heels, Juana takes on his assumed name of Don Gil and dresses up in the titlular lurid green breeches.
Sean O’Brien’s translation sets a jaunty tone with a rhyming rendition of Molina’s text jogging through a series of mistaken identities and climaxing in four Don Gils on stage all wearing identical breeches. The show is also one of three plays in rep – the other two by Lope de Vega are directed by Laurence Boswell, who has been an aficionado of Spanish drama since his spell at the Gate Theatre 20-odd years ago.
Here, though, Mehmet Ergen’s production carves the comic melodrama into thick slices of ham on Mark Bailey’s set of glossy black marble-effect slabs. Hedydd Dylan cuts a jolly hockey sticks Juana who switches into the green breeches and drops her voice in lieu of her missing beard.
Meanwhile, Katie Lightfoot plays her rival as a high-maintenance posh girl in the period equivalent of twinset and pearls. Simon Scardifield raises a few chuckles as an angry dandy caught in the cross fire and – amid touches of 'Carry On…'-style comedy – Jim Bywater channels the late Benny Hill as an exasperated servant.
The result is a surprisingly conservative production for this often radical Dalston venue, but that needn’t make the experience any less amusing.
By Patrick Marmion