Man of La Mancha ~ Avon Theatre (Stratford)



Article by Judi "Scoop" McWilliams, Festival Nomad Correspondent

Stratford Man from L Mancha

"On our way back home to the Serenity B & B"

Awaiting trial by the Inquisition, poet and playwright Miguel de Cervantes is assailed by his fellow prisoners, who try to seize the manuscript of his masterpiece, Don Quixote. His inspired response: a challenge to join him in staging his stirring tale of Quixote’s obsessive quest to attain an impossible dream.

As we awaited the start of Man of La Mancha, we found our way into the gift shop at the Avon Theatre. It wasn’t long after that many folks were filling the shop on their quest for souvenirs and treasures to take home. Crowds gathered with anticipation at the grand wooden doors to the orchestra seats while others made their way upstairs to the balconies above. Wine, refreshing drinks, ice-cream treats, some folks dressed “to the nines”, some very casual. The Festival Nomad reminded me that this was a “Festival”, so anything goes for style. It was all about the experience! Although we have been treated to Live Theatre in the past, this may well have been the most exciting, saying that it was a lifetime best for me.

My very first introduction at the Stratford Festival was over 20 years ago. We saw “Alice Through The Looking-Glass”. It was overwhelming, too much for my first experience. You see, if you attend local theatre performances, and then build your way up to the larger performances, you may find yourself appreciating it that much more, have a greater understanding of what is being presented. It was ironic in a way that this Stratford Festival “Alice Through The Looking-Glass” was being performed again.  Tonight the Man of La Mancha was to take me to a new level of appreciation, understanding, awareness and acceptance.

The set was elaborate and we had time to take in the many intricacies of the stage, props and magnificent decorations. A full live orchestra played throughout the performance. The actors and actresses were top notched, seasoned professionals, who warmed our hearts, embraced our souls and delighted our spirits. The chorography and dancing was outstanding, the fighting scenes truly made me frightened, so much detail in every move. The actors did not “just roll across the floor in a summersault”, they rolled 3 to 4 times. The movements and strength were amazing. What might seem an “embellishment” if children were “playing”, in this setting we were truly transported in time? The sound was exquisite. We could hear every breath, almost hear their hearts beating. At times, I was afraid to breathe just in case they heard me; the entire audience was silent, in awe. Avon Theatre ~ Man of La Mancha was an experience of a lifetime, part of the Stratford experience was a warm welcome from the volunteers, who were courteous, friendly, and informative and made us feel very comfortable.

At the crescendo and final note, the audience rows to their feet in a thunderous standing ovation. After the show, we toured Stratford by the light of a quarter moon, stars, and a “Tim Horton’s” for a quick “night cap”. A perfect ending to a perfect day!