Theatre review: The Curious Lives of Shakespeare and Cervantes

ADAM HOUSE, EDINBURGH**

IF SHAKESPEARE and Cervantes still matter, it's surely because of their work, rather than the detail of their lives. That's the paradox at the heart of Asa Gim Palomera's homage to these two great writers, which played briefly in Edinburgh last week. Like most shows of its kind, it takes for granted our interest in the artists; and that presumption seals it off into a world of bourgeois tribute drama, a little arch and knowing, very prettily costumed, and largely inconsequential.

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Palomera's interest in these two great lives was triggered by the fact that although Cervantes was 17 years older than Shakespeare, both apparently died on the same date, 23 April 1616. Otherwise, though, they had little in common; and the resonances between their lives are unlikely to be much illuminated by a script that mashes up selected details of their biographies, and quotations from their works, with the odd lurch into incongruous modern street-speak, and sudden bursts of music from 20th century shows based on their work – Kiss Me Kate, West Side Story and Man of La Mancha.

David Dawkins turns in an attractive performance as the stoical Cervantes, while for some reason Scott J Gordon plays Shakespeare as a flouncing upper-class twit. But if the overall effect is often embarrassing, there is some pleasant music for guitar and cello to while away the time and the three young women playing assorted wives, mothers and mistresses wear their 17th century costumes with enough style to keep the audience happy for 80 minutes or so.