Don Rodolfo opens his debut fringe hour duelling with an unseen coat rack. Whilst his lookalike Ciaran Dowd may have years of experience performing with perenially-underrated sketch trio Beasts at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this is a new experience for the latin lothario swordsman Don Rodolfo. He's more equipped to fight and make love across continental Europe than deliver a tight hour of stand-up comedy. It is fortunate then that Don Rodolfo doesn't crack many jokes in his hour in the Pleasance Courtyard, but instead tells the story of his captivatingly adventurous life to an enraptured audience.
A phenomenally energetic feel good hour of swashbuckling adventure comedy
Dowd, adopting the persona of Don Rodolfo, rarely lets the mask of character comedy slip in this riotously hilarious hour. There are occasional asides and acknowledgements, as well as a criminally (and intentionally) dodgy Spanish accent that must be addressed from time to time, but for the most part Dowd lets his eyes, his sword and his crotch do the talking. Thrusting and parrying his way around the shipping crate that barely contains Don Rodolfo's monologue, Dowd electrifies the entire courtyard with a genuinely engaging swashbuckling epic about the life of a man "who both has, and is, a world-class bellend". The story, spanning many years and most of the continent of Europe, is full of individual vignettes that transcend and subvert the fantasy cliches which gave birth to them. In this tale, Don Rodolfo tracks down a mysterious villain in a voyage of love, loss and revenge. What surprises most about Dowd's hour of character comedy is that as well as succeeding at being laugh-out-loud funny, the story of Don Rodolfo is genuinely a thrill to watch.
In Beasts, Ciaran Dowd stood out from the rest of the group by the virtue of playing the high-status loudmouth who gets most of the punchlines. This status, paired with the genuine exuberance and excitement with which Dowd embodies his role in this show, allows Don Rodolfo to access the venn diagram connection between engaging, upbeat character work and familiar fantasy tropes. We root for Don Rodolfo, the lacivious anti-hero, and boo his villains along the way. We are wrapped up in a narrative that both the audience and Dowd acknowledge is patently ridiculous. The occasional mis-step comes from a twist that may leave the audience feeling slightly cheated regarding an earlier haymaker of a joke, as well as the occasionally repetitive tone. But these misgivings should not put you off seeing this phenomenally energetic feel-good hour of swashbuckling adventure comedy.