Since 2001, when Shrek exploded onto the scene to the searing fanfare of Smash Mouth’s All Star, any attempt at telling a classic adventure story has come with a snide soupcon of winking irony. Damsels in distress, noble knights and dragons are deemed so old hat that new takes on the fantasy tradition almost universally go out of their way to deconstruct the ridiculous nature of their hoary old tropes. Nearly two decades worth of willing self-flagellation has left very little fresh comedic potential to mine, but in the right hands the material can still sing
Ciaran Dowd takes on the role of the greatest swordsman in the land circa the 17th century, the eponymous Don Rodolfo, in this spirited skewering of the Zorro/Inigo Montoya tradition. Possessed of a rapacious and borderline offensive Spanish accent [which keeps slipping], a billowing sable shirt scarcely able to contain a not insignificant belly, eyes that 14 people have literally drowned in and a horse by the name of ‘horse’: he ‘both has, and is a world class bell-end’. The performance takes the form of the swordsman recounting his storied life and quest for vengence against the six handed man who killed his father [he bristles at any inferred infringement of copyright RE: the Princess Bride] alongside personal grooming and seduction tips [‘clothes: wear them’].
Dowd imbues his uninhibited libertine with just the right blend of absurd arrogance and a total lack of any form of higher brain functions. Whilst he’s a complete narcissistic idiot, he’s very good company and has a way with an anecdote. When discussing losing his virginity, he describes his father ‘taking me to one of those establishments where women will have sex with you for money…if you know what I mean’ with the sly wink and rakish charm of someone making a world class innuendo. Other highlights include a predilection for arson that only gets funnier as the show runs on, a blow by blow account of his epic fight with 600 enemy soldiers [‘number 495: I can’t take credit for: appendicitis’] and his battles with his own sexuality [‘so I have sex with men, does that make me gay? I also have sex with bedroom tables; does that make me a carpenter?’] all the while closing in on his six handed nemesis.
If the show is not breaking any particularly new ground, it’s open hearted nature combined with an extremely tight script and a couple of inspired musical choices means it’s a great night regardless of your feelings about swords and eyeliner. Highly recommended.
Don Rodolfo is playing at the Soho Theatre until Saturday 12th January tickets are available at https://sohotheatre.com/shows/ciaran-dowd-don-rodolfo/
Picture Credit: Idil Sukan