First Night: Zorro, Garrick Theatre, London

Lacklustre Latin swashbuckler fails to make the cut
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The Independent Culture

There doesn't seem to be such a thing as a quiet gypsy – at least not in Zorro. The gypsies cry, they clap, they howl. They smack crates with their open palms, pound chairs on the floor, and bang on metal buckets with odd bits of hardware. And of course they dance – they stamp so often and so viciously it seems a shame no one has brought a handful of nuts to make some use of all that energy. With all that carry-on, and over-miked performers who are louder than they are lucid (I wasn't sure if a couple of numbers were in Spanish or English), Zorro is no show for anyone who needs a bit of kip.

Zorro Incorporated, it seems, has lost faith in its raison d'etre, a state reflected in the decision to hand over much of the show to the gypsies, who fling the 20-year-old hit "Bamboleo" and other music by the Gipsy Kings at us with the vehemence and charm of an assault. This means that, while the stage repeatedly resounds to keening and thudding, the leading man and lady are left with the low-voltage numbers. All that Don Diego, aka Zorro, and his sweetheart, Luisa, can do is moo at each other or, in a further expression of post-modern self-doubt, examine their motives and question their feelings.

This loss of confidence is also apparent in Stephen Clark's book. Californians of 1805 complain of being stressed, or wanting it all, and one paraphrases a famous line from Casablanca. This Zorro is so smirky when he's not moping or agonising that one can't believe he really wants to bring freedom to the peasants of California. He's too much a child of our self-centred time. Luisa wonders, "Is it true that words mean nothing when they're spoken?/Can one trust in vows when promises are broken?" Like so many ladies before or since, she realises too late that a lady's motto should be "Get it in writing."

Matthew Rawle is pleasant enough as the laid-back freedom fighter, but he seems far too innocuous, and Emma Williams, as the love interest who is now "feisty" (ie, a pushy nag) seems even more self-absorbed. Lesli Margherita, as the spitfire Inez, is even pushier, a kind of Lesley Joseph of Spanish California. The only pleasure in this timid and cynical corporate product is the Captain Ramon of Adam Levy, an actor who brings real creepiness to his sadistic character as well as very real sex appeal. Is he doing a subtle parody, with his sinister purring and his unexpected, threatening pauses, of Alan Rickman? If not, and that's the way he is naturally, it's more than good enough for me.