The aspect of Sancho I found most interesting was the metatheatrical aspect the show introduced. Throughout the performance, many references were made to Shakespeare and Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. Sancho’s namesake was attributed to Cervantes’ character, Sancho Panza, who he was forced to portray in his childhood. Sancho says, “the play’s the thing” in reference to the forced theatrics of his youth, a quote borrowed from Hamlet. Furthermore, Sancho consistently referred to his guardians as the “Weird Sisters”, the name of the witches in Macbeth, and shortly thereafter begins to consort with the Montagues next door. Although historical, the coincidence of their neighbors sharing a family name with Romeo further exemplifies the Shakespearean influence.
Sancho’s metatheatricality expanded every time Joseph broke the fourth wall and talked directly to the audience. This served to break the dramatics and add the humor that Sancho was so full of, while at the same time keeping the audience aware that they were watching a performance. Joseph was telling us the story of Sancho through Sancho’s own narration.
Interestingly, Behn’s Oroonoko played a role in Sancho as well. Oroonoko is a play turned novel written by playwright Aphra Behn about an African prince sold into slavery. The significance of this play lies in the voice it gave to two repressed groups during the 17th century: women and slaves. Sancho performing a scene from the work parallels his own struggles as a slave in his modern-day England. Additionally, Oroonoko was named Caesar by the slave owners and is filled with both classical and Shakespearean allusions. The marriage of these elements not only emphasize the metatheatricality, but also the discrimination present in Sancho. His knowledge of Behn’s work also highlights Sancho’s education, furthering his image as a well-read individual.
The program notes, although useful to audience members not previously familiar with the story, do not prepare the reader for the spectacle and intricacies of the one man show. Joseph’s constant allusions to Shakespeare paint an intelligent image of Sancho. The “words, words, words,” he used show his character to be a learned man well versed in his education. The program notes also cleared up any confusion caused by Joseph’s usage of different accents. Overall, the live and intimate performance of Sancho: An Act of Remembrance added zest to an already powerful and metatheatrical show.
Check out the trailer here