Kneehigh bring Don John to Bristol

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Next month world-renowned, Cornwall-based Kneehigh Theatre bring Don John to The Bristol Hippodrome. The production is a radical re-working of the Don Giovanni, Casanova and Don Juan stories, updated to 1970s England.

Renowned for their distinctive physical, musical and visually arresting style, Don John follows successful year for Kneehigh, with productions touring to the US, Brazil and Columbia. Their version of Brief Encounter has also recently enjoyed an extended run in the West End. Presented in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Bristol Old Vic, Don John was performed in the RSC’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford throughout December prior to this major UK tour.

Emma Rice, Kneehigh’s Artistic Director sets the production in 1978 – ‘the winter of discontent’, and creates a powerful atmosphere through specially commissioned music from composer Stu Barker, drawing on the influences of Northern soul and punk with a hint of Mozart.

On her reasons for setting the play in the late 1970s, Emma said: ‘I really wanted to put it in a world that is relevant to us and that we can almost reach out and touch. I also knew I wanted it to be very English. It’s a fantastic decade to set it in because the music is really split between quite sentimental stuff (Three Times a Lady was in the chart that year) and soul music – all about love and romance – next to punk which was all about resistance and anger.’

‘It was a really interesting time politically too – the year before Thatcher was voted in.’

The story revolves around the dangerous Don John whose claim to fame is that he has slept with over 2,000 women. The production has been developed and rehearsed at Kneehigh’s home base in Cornwall:

’bq. Cornwall is the base and the heart of where the process happens’ says Emma. We’ve got the most beautiful barns on the south coast of Cornwall in a village called Gorran Haven. We have no caretakers, we do all the cooking and cleaning – the theatre makers do all the work – cut our own wood, make our own fires.

‘It has a remarkable magic. We spend an awful lot of time together as there is nothing else to do – we end up working very long hours because it doesn’t feel like work, and that informs the process. We work very much in layers, so everyday we’ll do some dance, some movement and work on some characters and as I always see things as a big jigsaw, we go back after broad brush strokes and layer in the detail later. In many ways that is what makes us different from other theatre companies. The words are the last thing – they are the sprinkle on top of the cake, whereas most theatres start with the words and work from there.’

Don John

Kneehigh Theatre in association with The Royal Shakespeare Company and Bristol Old Vic

Tuesday 10th – Saturday 14th March
Evenings at 7.30 pm
Matinee on Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets: £12.50 £17.50 £23.50 £28.50
Concessions available excluding Saturday evening