Don Juan in Soho is marketed as ‘a retelling of the quintessential tale of debauchery and damnation’: an appropriate description of Patrick Marber’s re-working of Molière’s classic.
It tells the story of DJ, a caddish but charming philanderer who moves from conquest to conquest, never satisfied. He’s accompanied by Stan, his factotum and the closest thing he has to a friend, and pursued by Colm, the irate brother of DJ’s new (and subsequently abandoned) wife, Elvira.
The cast deliver Marber’s often gritty prose beautifully, with an unexpected tinge of the poetic. The text’s comic potential is evident, and effective use is made of the opportunities for physical comedy under Guy Levin’s direction. Will Spray is on superb form as the eponymous anti-hero, oozing languorous charm, whilst John-Mark Philo is outstanding as the heady Stan.
Energy and vitality infuse the dastardly duo’s scenes, but the pace feels a little sluggish when the rest of the cast take centre-stage. Rather than allowing the action to build to the climactic first fight scene, there was an extended and uncomfortable pause, which killed the progression of the plot.
Some of the blocking is rather static but is generally adequate. The use of a split-stage design is potentially limiting and predictable, but does place focus nicely.
Don Juan in Soho may lack the moral clout of Molière’s original, but it is a fine play in its own right.
The cast do an admirable job of conveying the wit and symbolism of the text. The production had me laughing regularly; after all, who can resist a play in which the main character describes himself as the ‘Kofi Annan of copulation’?