REVIEW: MAN OF LA MANCHA (Bridewell Theatre)



MOLM-360Established in 1905, Sedos is one of the major amateur theatre companies in the City. The company boasts over 200 members and stages 8 – 10 fringe productions every year. Since 2012, Sedos has been the resident company at Bridewell Theatre, which is part of the St Bride Foundation.

Never afraid of challenges, Sedos presents the 50th Anniversary Production of Man of La Mancha, the rarely performed musical written by Dale Wasserman inspired by the classic Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion. The original 1965 Broadway production ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The musical is a play within a play. Miguel de Cervantes is thrown into prison by the Inquisition for trying to collect taxes from a monastery. Whilst he is waiting for his trial, the other prisoners are holding a trial of their own:  If Cervantes loses, he will forfeit all his possessions. Being a writer and actor, he conducts his defence in the form of a play about Don Quixote, a delusional nobleman who considers himself a dauntless knight, centuries too late, in fighting for justice. The prisoners participate in the play and, though sceptical at first, are quickly drawn into the action.

The stage design by directors Roger Harwood and Dawn Harrison-Wallace takes us into a historical prison entailing various levels. The cells are hidden in the cellar, the main level is the communal area with two more levels higher up. Crying and moaning can be heard before the show actually begins. There is a dusty, musky smell and the prisoners are dressed in period costumes, or rags in this instance.  The orchestra, under the musical direction of Benjamin Thiele-Long, is hidden in the wings. The performance begins with Cervantes and his Servant being taken down the stairs of the auditorium into prison. Cervantes is soon confronted by the Governor, who is in charge of the inmates. The Governor appoints a Prosecutor, who then plays Don Quixote’s nemesis in Cervantes’ play.

This production benefits from an enthusiastic cast and an impressive set. Although the cast were using portable mics the sound was off at times and the voices did not always hold up against the orchestra but this did not affect my enjoyment of the show. Chris Starkey is a touching Don Quixote and Stephen Beeny indulges in high comedy as Sancho Pansa. I especially liked Kate Geldhill’s Aldonza who succeeded in combining sensitivity with a defensive toughness.

A rare opportunity to see this classical musical.

Reviewed by: Carolin Kopplin

Man of La Mancha is playing at the Bridewell Theatre until 5 December. Click here for tickets