Drama on BBC Scotland
BBC Scotland, 25 December 2010
This quest-story with distinct echoes of Cervantes' Don Quixote concerned two brothers, Donal (Billy Connolly) and Sandy (Brian Cox) travelling round Scotland in search of Jeannette (Sandy McDade), the girl they were both in love with when they were children at the orphanage. Donal claimed that she had written to him to say that she needed a knight in shining armour to come to her rescue. The brothers embark on a series of adventures before finally discovering Jeannette in an asylum. However things did not quite turn out as they expected.
The two brothers were the classic odd couple: Donal had been shipped off to the United States while still a child, and had carved out a successful career as an eco-warrior and minor "coast-to-coast" celebrity. Sandy remained in Scotland and kept a tobacconist's shop. When they last met ten years previously, Sandy had attacked Donal with a shovel; since then they had never exchanged one word.
As the action unfolded, however, it became obvious that one brother could not live without the other. Donal needed Sandy to act as driver; Sandy craved companionship (in spite of his protestations to the listeners that he could manage on his own). Both of them were dominated by other people: Donal by his wife Leonora (Sandy McDade again), and Sandy by Fergus (Forbes Masson), who pursued him round the country for repayment of a loan. The play ended with the two brothers escaping their respective pursuers by driving off a cliff in classic Thelma and Louise-style.
The Quest for Donal Q also showed how the past cast a shadow over both present and future. As Sandy followed his brother on the quest, he recalled how they were brought up in an orphanage; how Donal was fortunate enough to go to America; and how both brothers had forged a close relationship with Jeannette. The director David Ian Neville used snatches of music played on violin and flute to signal these reflections. Once the two brothers found Jeannette, it seemed as if the nostalgic past could be recreated once more, with the three of them spending an afternoon playing together away from the asylum. However Sandy noted in an aside that "this woman is not right": Jeannette was quite happy to be with the two brothers, but she wanted to return to the asylum for high tea. With the sound of a mournful piano in the background, Sandy reflected on the failure of the brothers' quest to recreate the past.
On the other hand the brothers did not die after they drove off the cliff; instead they continued on their merry way as bosom buddies, singing the theme song from the old television series Robin Hood. Although they could not recreate the past, they could certainly look forward to a bright future.
Directed at breakneck speed by Neville, with two stellar central characterizations from Cox and Connolly, The Quest of Donal Q proved hugely entertaining.