site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Corn Exchange - El Sombrero de Tres Picos

27th March 2003.

This was the Newbury Weekly News review.

Language no barrier to understanding

El Sombrero de Tres Picos: Theatre Sans Frontières, at The Corn Exchange, Thursday, March 27

Let me confess at the outset that I don't speak Spanish. But so what? I've happily watched many an opera in Italian and I don't speak that either. So I skipped along to Theatre Sans Frontières' production of El Sombrero de Tres Picos with optimistically gay abandon and was repaid handsomely.

The cast cleverly and unobtrusively varied their pace according to need; bits that were important to grasp for the sake of the plot were taken slightly slower with helpful use of gesture, while at other times it rattled along. The quickfire banter was appreciated by those able to understand while folks like me still enjoyed the gist. You didn't have to be told when someone had been given a crushing put-down or devastating insult; the delivery and reaction made it clear. And as any actor will tell you, it's delivery and reaction that really make things funny in the first place, even in your own language.

A huge variety of visual tricks were also used including puppetry, shadow play and wonderful movement. This is a comedy where donkeys act as chorus and narrators while the humans act like donkeys. I loved the different way the donkeys were portrayed by the cast - flapping ears, swishing tails (sometimes swatting flies) and assorted braying.

The human characters were played with burlesque, adding to the visual humour. Jose Troncoso in particular affected a grotesque walk and other mannerisms to great effect as El Corregidor; his squeals at times of stress showed what can be done with simple repetition in comedy if done with sufficient skill to elicit laughter and avoid irritation.

The rest of the cast, too, were masters of timing and expression. They and inventive director John Cobb gave us an excellent evening. I take my hat off to them. Three-cornered, naturally.