Edinburgh Fringe 2023
“In a world of lies, big lies and total whoppers, one way is invent your own even bigger lies. Lies the size of giants’ underpants. And live them. Inspired by comic masterpiece Don Quixote, join the irrepressible Babolin for their 19th Fringe show, as they mount the Donkey of Dreams, dodder up the Driveway of Delusion, stumble on the Steps of Stupidity, and totter on the Trunkroads of Truth.”
We meet the would-be filmmaker Federico Fettuccine and assistant Sandy Pecorino on a journey of self-discovery, and an exploration into what really matters. The legendary Don Quixote, that noble knight of La Mancha… And I will not tell you any more. Because what really matters here is that we have another ensemble triumph from Babolin Theatre.
This is a company that consistently infects the audience with their volcanic energy and 110% commitment. The 11 performers never outshine each other and are modulated perfectly as a troupe, and also as a troop, as they march forward into the story, never leaving the audience out with a sidewink, a direct address, or a full-blown chorus—rap one moment, almost opera the next.
With glorious alliteration overload, the writing empowers and gives voice to the entire cast. The many set-piece movement skits and interactions are a delight. Collectively larger than life, this is a piece in which both performer and audience can transcend their default safer selves and become individually and collectively synergistic. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts and occasionally gloriously monstrous. They sing songs, monologue and dialogue, and shout as one, and move with 22 legs with consummate competence.
It is a fairly simple tale, occasionally unnecessarily dressed up with a bit too much complexity, because sometimes too much is going on—especially vocally—and we can lose the plot now and then. But just go with it, because you end up back on the main road and realize you were never lost in the first place. Alice had the courage to get curiously lost in Wonderland, and so should you when beholding this bold narrative spiced with a love of a bit of chaos. And the “Don” – does he really exist? Doesn’t everything truly exist in our dreams? Does it matter? Are what and who we truly seek, not on the horizon of our wildest wishes, but more tellingly right under our noses, never far away, if only we have eyes to see?
The plot anchor is our protagonist, our underfunded hero filmmaker. There is straying from the path and realization and reconciliation at the end, all the ingredients of a good old story romp.
Devised by the cast and supported by a confident script that can be as madcap with language as the cast are with scenes and movement. There is cleverness and wit at the heart of the words and a little bit of scope for the cast to practice their clarity and ensure that any overlaps do not become an inaccessible cacophony.
Inventive puppetry and the clever use of light, skilled physical clowning and well-realized choreography. There is scope occasionally to slow things down and allow silence to speak louder than all the words put together. Stillness takes courage and here there is scope for some further work, as we find patience in the minimal rather than the maximal.
There is a lot of stuff happening in this show, which sometimes revels in the occasional obscure line, a sight gag or some well rehearsal physical set piece comefy. side swipes abound, one line, blended with a deeper lesson in chivalry and considerations of the price we pay for avoiding or chasing our dreams.
It is pure top-quality fringe, a visual and vocal feast. Taking beautiful liberties as usual with accepted norms of theatre, and I was genuinely sad that it ended when it did because I wanted another dollop.
Babolin have succeeded again with a demonstration that young and youth theatre can hold its own in the professional space of physical theatre. They know how to tell a story and leave the audience feeling richer for it. Discipline and team work underpin this recipe for success, a heartful attitude and they generously “give” this to the audience. Visually, vocally and musically rich and diverse, the word play is thrilling and the laughter comes easily. Bemusement is definitely a both intended and I suspect occasionally unintended result in the audience.
Sadly, they never do a long run at the fringe, and I would recommend they play at least 10 days or come back for a few days at the end to allow all the positive and glowing reviews to sink in with the punters and give them a chance not to miss it.
In hope of that, this remains a must see.