There’s an argument to be made that the most effective parodies come from those who have a genuine affection for their subject matter; Don Rodolfo certainly adds credence to this view, because the evident love Ciarán Dowd has for the genre of swashbuckling romance he so brilliantly sends up elevates his creation immeasurably. The result is a magnificently realised piece of character comedy that packs an incredible amount of storytelling into its single hour.
The ludicrous, legendary Don Rodolfo—self-professed greatest swordsman in the world, lover of women, men and household furniture, who habitually sets every building he leaves on fire and rides a horse called Horse—owes his existence to Don Juan, Don Quixote, the Three Musketeers, Zorro and Inigo Montoya. Yet he emerges onto the stage fully formed and entirely compelling. The story of his life, his loves and his quest for revenge is entrancing as well as hilarious, and keeps the audience gripped just as Dowd keeps them laughing.
There is no shortage of comedians at the Fringe inhabiting grotesque idiots as their alter-egos, but Don Rodolfo, while never threatening to take himself (or anything else) seriously, emerges as a surprisingly effective anti-hero. He's a good-natured, bloodthirsty lothario whose stupidity utterly befits the epic nature of his setting, and who achieves an almost cinematic grandeur that should be impossible for one man in a cramped basement waving a plastic sword. And yet, achieving the impossible is what Don Rodolfo does. A spectacle worth witnessing.