I say naughty, I mean filthy. This play is very rude indeed but succeeds in being an entertaining not an offensive night out because it is genuinely funny, thanks to a fine script from Patrick Marber and the brilliant double act at the epi-centre-David Tennant and Adrian Scarborough.
Don Juan whores his way around modern London, promising whatever he must to obtain sexual gratification and then moving onto his next prey. His side-kick Stan gives a running commentary on the lascivious Don’s misdemeanours and draws the audience into his own voyeuristic relationship with the master who is as deficient in paying wages as he is in delivering on his promises to the lovers he uses and dumps.
Tennant, whether you know him from his TV star turns in Dr Who and Broadchurch, his impressive body of theatre work or his audio recordings of Hiccup the Viking, is an actor of irresistible allure and this also goes a long way to turning one of the most repugnant misogynists in literature into a charming rogue.
Adrian Scarborough is a brilliant character actor, like Tennant a master performer on Television as well as stage, and the reality of the rapport between servant and master is the real heart of the play. The last time I saw him he was beaten to death in a bath by Simon Russell Beale’s King Lear in the middle of a pyschotic episode so there was some relief that he makes it through this production physically unscathed.
The staging is extravagant with a couple of very nice special effects that I won’t spoil here. Music from Mozart’s own version of the Don Juan story Don Giovanni, combined with the modern setting, gives an air of a timeless morality play if one that is slightly short on morals. If we are surprised at the abruptness of the ending, we are probably not as surprised as the eponymous Don himself.
In a strange kind of way, for all that there is oral sex on stage albeit disguised by a blanket, it is an asexual show. The increasingly gangly physique of Mr Tennant defuses any sense of coercion and his physical pleasures are depicted as a mechanical release rather than an erotic fantasy.
There are some great performances in the smaller roles and we particularly enjoyed Mark Ebulue’s impressive turn as Vicious Aloysius who does what it says on the tin.
If I have to quibble I admit I would have liked better choreography. The highlight is a lovely comic pas de deux between Tennant and Scarborough but apart from that it was disappointingly undemanding given the opportunities afforded by the music and the undoubted ability of the cast.
That I had fretted openly about whether I would enjoy something that advertised itself as being for 16+ (and yes Phaedras at the Barbican Centre I do blame you for this) is evident from supportive messages from my tweeps, concerned that I might have a fit of the vapours after another explicit night in a London theatre but I thoroughly enjoyed it, to the ill-disguised surprise of my daughter.
I do want to say a huge thank you to Mr Tennant for never failing to delight on stage – his Hamlet, Berowne, Benedick and Richard II live in my memory as some of the best performances I have seen, in some of the best plays. Don Juan in Soho, playfully updated from Moliere, is not one of the greatest plays but it is a good one and Tennant brings out the best of it.
Actors whose name alone draws a huge audience have a duty of care not to allow theatres to take their fans money without delivering something in return and Tennant has never failed to deliver. Don Juan in Soho is well worth the money: 10/10.