Don Gil of the Green Breeches

Theatre , Drama
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© Jane Hobson

'Don Gil of the Green Breeches'

© Jane Hobson

'Don Gil of the Green Breeches'

© Jane Hobson

'Don Gil of the Green Breeches'

© Jane Hobson

'Don Gil of the Green Breeches'

© Jane Hobson

'Don Gil of the Green Breeches'

© Jane Hobson

'Don Gil of the Green Breeches'

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

Event phone: 020 7503 1646
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Hilary Mandleberg

My memories of this crazy play involve making a stiffened green velvet doublet with room for a woman's ample boobs for a production by the Hispanic Society of my university. How nice it was, this week, to be front of house and enjoying the Arcola's rumbustious, inventive production. It takes some concentration to follow all the twists and turns of the plot and to keep up with who's really who, where they come from, what their name is and what the hell they're planning to do next. But actually, it doesn't really matter – as underlined by the wonderful moment when Donna Anna says her words with such speed that I doubt even she could follow what she was saying. You're somehow carried from start (one pair of green breeches) to finish (four pairs of green breeches) by the verve of the plot and the unalloyed joy of the performances. I loved every minute of it - the staging, the acting, the music, and the wit - as did my companion who'd never seen a Golden Age Spanish play before. And I also loved the fact that it felt Spanish enough to take me back to my university days, but not so Spanish as to make me feel I'd just walked into a flamenco bar on one of the costas. A triumph!