Acclaimed comic actor Patrice Thibaud teams up with Jose Montalvo for Don Quichotte

This article is from 2013

Acclaimed comic actor Patrice Thibaud teams up with Jose Montalvo for Don Quichotte

credit: Patrick Berger

The famed Spanish novel is being transformed into a comedic dance piece for the EIF 2013

As Jose Montalvo’s Don Quichotte du Trocadéro comes to the International Festival, Kelly Apter discovers a key ingredient to the show’s success – comedy.

If he lived in the UK, it’s safe to say Patrice Thibaud would be a busy man each December. An acclaimed comic actor in his native France, Thibaud’s style lends itself perfectly to pantomime – which is why Jose Montalvo’s new show is pulling in audiences most dance shows could only dream of.

‘This show is really open to all kinds of crowds,’ says Thibaud. ‘It’s not only for dance fans or people who go to the opera. Children and families are coming and laughing, older people, young people, it’s wide open. And that’s what I like – and I knew working with Jose, that’s what I would get.’

The audience isn’t the only reason Thibaud wanted to work with Montalvo. Last seen at the Edinburgh International Festival with 2007’s On Danse, Montalvo is known for blending engaging video images with all kinds of movement. In Don Quichotte du Trocadéro (or Don Quixote of the Trocadero, as it translates) there are dancers trained in classical ballet, contemporary, tap, hip hop and flamenco.

Each is given moments to shine in their chosen specialism, then come together for ensemble routines. And all of them interact with Thibuad who, as the central character Don Quichotte, meets the dancers on a rather surreal journey he undertakes.

It’s the first time Thibaud and Montalvo have worked together, but it was a match waiting to happen. ‘Jose had wanted to work with me for some time,’ explains Thibaud, ‘because of the universe I inhabit on stage, my "craziness". And from my point of view, I wanted to work with Jose because of the mix on stage – the different kind of dancers you find in this work. I felt comfortable bringing myself into that.’

To help with a cultural reference, Thibaud compares himself to ‘Mr Bean in your country’. But while there are similarities, Thibaud’s style has a definite European edge, which lends itself perfectly to this story. Inspired by Cervantes’ original 17th century novel, Montalvo has taken Don Quixote’s donkey ride across Spain and changed it into a present-day journey on the Paris metro (and yes, the donkey is still there – courtesy of some clever video footage).

Knowledge of this iconic character was another thing that brought Montalvo and Thibaud together. ‘Both Jose and I are originally from Spain – I’m half Spanish, and both Jose’s parents are Spanish – so that was the first thing we had in common,’ explains Thibaud. ‘And in Spain, everybody knows the story of Don Quixote. I first read the book itself when I was about 18, and performed other characters from the story in another theatre production. But as artists, I think we can all identify with Don Quixote – because we all dream a little bit of changing the world and trying to fight things, just like he did. To dream the impossible dream.’

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 473 2000. 29—31 Aug, 7.30pm, £12–£30.

Don Quichotte du Trocadéro

  • 4 stars

José Montalvo combines farce, burlesque and commedia dell’arte for the 21st century with urban and modern dance, film and slapstick comedy in his brilliant new show. Don Quixote, in his fifties, decides to achieve great things and finds himself in the dance halls, or Trocaderos, of Europe – traditional meeting and…