Pedro, The Great Pretender

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Previewed 14 February 2005, Opened 17 February 2005, Closed 12 March 2005 at the Playhouse Theatre in London

The RSC presents Miguel de Cervantes' comedy Pedro, The Great Pretender in London directed by Mike Alfreds as part of the 2005 Spanish Golden Age Season.

Miguel de Cervantes' 1605 play - author of Don Quixote de la Mancha - follows the exploits of Pedro de Urdemales on his journey of discovery and enlightenment. The plot revolves around a lovable trickster who aims to be helpful in order to be liked. His journey to find his identity ends with him finding his true vocation on the stage.

The cast for Pedro, The Great Pretender in London includes William Buckhurst, James Chalmers, Joseph Chance, Claire Cox, Julius D'Silva, Rebecca Johnson, Katherine Kelly, Melanie MacHugh, Joseph Millson, Vinta Morgan, Emma Pallant, Oscar Pearce, John Ramm, Matt Ryan, Peter Sproule, John Stahl, Simon Trinder, Joanna Van Kampen, John Wark and Oliver Williams. The play is presented by the RSC in a new translation by Philip Osment from a literal translation by Simon Masterton, Jack Sage and Kathleen Mountjoy. It is directed by Mike Alfreds with movement and choreography by Leah Hausman, designs by Rae Smith and Es Devlin, lighting by Ben Ormerod and music composed by Ilona Sekacz. Staged in repertory with two other productions - House Of Desires and The Dog In The Manger - these three plays transferred to London's West End following a season at the RSC's Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon during 2004.

"Philip Osment's new version of Pedro, the Great Pretender, in a production by Mike Alfreds, is full of playful metatheatricality. The musicians and cast sit watching onstage as Pedro leads us, through interlinking episodes, from village square to bourgeois sitting-room, from royal court to gypsy camp and, ultimately, to his new role among a troupe of strolling players... Yet at times the play seems frustratingly inconsequential. Its lengthy sections of spoken narrative try the patience, and although the way in which Cervantes abruptly deserts characters once they have played their part is in keeping with the piece's play-within-a-play structure, it's not always dramatically satisfying. Like Pedro, Alfreds's production gets out of those sticky spots by turning on the charm. Even the Great Pretender would have to admit that in the end, that's not quite enough -but it still has considerable power to enchant." The Times

"Anyone who thinks that Shakespeare's clowns are terminally unfunny should see Pedro, The Great Pretender, Miguel de Cervantes' contribution to the RSC's season of Spanish Golden Age drama. That'll teach you how desiccated ancient humour can be... Mike Alfreds, an attentive and enabling director, has saddled himself with a clumping comedy: 13 scenes, bound together by a fantasising narrator... Alfreds does everything to make a predictable diet look as if it were self-aware: each scene is announced, Brechtian-style; the band and non-acting performers remain on stage in all scenes. But there is no linguistic charge, no lightness: a good company of actors are reduced to mugging away." The Observer

"When a play has been allowed to gather dust for almost four centuries, there often turns out to be a good reason for its neglect. And so it proves with Pedro, the Great Pretender, a comedy by Miguel de Cervantes, first published in 1615, but never staged until the RSC rescued it from oblivion as part of its Spanish Golden Age season. Mike Alfreds's production received generous reviews when it opened in Stratford last year, and the piece certainly has a well-meaning affability about it that makes criticism seem cruel. Nevertheless, the truth must out. Pedro, the Great Pretender is comedy at its most punishing - excessively verbose, written in tedious doggerel and for much of its length desperately unfunny... Every scene drags on that little bit too long, while the persistent rhymes of Philip Osment's translation grate tiresomely. After three hours, one longs for comedy with a sharper edge." The Daily Telegraph

"Like his book, Don Quixote, this is a quirky, episodic and satirical comedy... Philip Osment's translation is peppered with frisky idioms. John Ramm (from the National Theatre of Brent) makes Pedro warmly lovable, Julius D'Silva's foolish mayor is a hoot, and Joseph Millson's gypsy-fancying King is cryingly funny, hurling himself into a frenzied pillow fight with his jealous Queen, Rebecca Johnson... The final twist is also transcendent and celebratory, as Pedro the Pretender meets a troupe of players, realises this is his true metier, and steps forward, with a grin, to say he's changing his name to Cervantes. See this." The Independent on Sunday

Pedro, The Great Pretender in London at the Playhouse Theatre previewed from 14 February 2005, opened on 17 February 2005 and closed on 12 March 2005.