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Pedro, the Great Pretender review at Royal Shakespeare Theatre Stratford upon Avon

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Another seventeenth century Spanish gem, newly translated by Philip Osment, concludes this season of plays at the Swan Theatre. This fine company of actors has recreated forgotten works of great writing, skilfully directed and brought to life by Mike Alfreds.

However, the director’s decision to place all the characters at the back of the stage between acts is distracting to say the least. They looked distinctly bored, swigging water from plastic bottles and trying hard to concentrate, when they should have been out of sight.

The play consists of 13 vignettes illustrating events that have autobiographical relevance to Cervante’s colourful life. It also illustrates his imagination and wit as a writer and poet, which he uses to expose the hypocrisy of those with wealth and position with his maverick pranks and conning tricks.

The episodic style of writing requires us to ditch our traditional experience of watching drama. Each act does not always connect with the next scene, creating a flagging momentum at times. But this strong cast manages to bring it back from the edge it each time with exceptionally strong characterisations of the main characters, including John Ramm as Pedro, Julius D’Silva as the Mayor and Joseph Millson as the wonderfully spoilt King.

There is much light relief along the way, a hilarious pillow fight, escaping chickens and completely over the top men dancing in Spanish dresses. Pedro’s final tongue is cheek speech about being an actor and director manages to bring this rambling tale to a subtle end.

Production Information

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon , September 1-30

Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Philip Osment
Mike Alfreds
Royal Shakespeare Company
John Ramm, Claire Cox, William Buckhurst, Rebecca Johnson, Joseph Millson, Peter Sproule, Julius D’Silva
Running time
3hrs 5mins

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