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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Don Juan in Soho
Donmar Theatre Winter 2006-2007

For about two-thirds of its length, Patrick Marber's modernised adaptation from Moliere is a delight - witty and inventive, naughty and bawdy, assertively non-pc, a thoroughly enjoyable guilty pleasure.

And then the bottom falls out.

Marber translates the Don into a modern idle-rich playboy who by his own account hasn't slept alone in years, and in another's words, is 'Satan in a suit from Saville Row'. In rough parallel with Moliere, we see DJ seduce and abandon the previously virtuous Elvira and later chat up one woman while being orally ministered to by another.

Accompanied by his hapless gofer Stan, DJ dances through life dropping witticisms even faster than women. 'Begone and take your terrible metaphors with you,' he commands when a critic waxes too poetic, and the nearest thing he comes to a serious thought is a bit of nostalgia for the cheap old Soho where he could get 'stoned, blown and in a cab home, and still have change from a tenner'.

And then, at roughly the point that Moliere's original begins to get serious - i.e., when the ghostly statue appears - the play falls apart. Marber's writing gets flaccid and flabby, Michael Grandage's direction loses its snap, and the energy level drops to near-zero.

The two wholly good characters in the play, Elvira and DJ's father, each give a dripping-with-sincerity lengthy sermon on virtue, and both scenes lie there absolutely dead, despite the considerable efforts of Laura Pyper and David Ryall.

And then DJ gets an extended fulmination against lesser mortals than he, in the world of instant and disposable celebrity, that has nothing to do with the rest of the play and completely lacks the wit and energy we've come to expect from the character.

Until that last half-hour, Rhys Evans makes DJ an irresistible monster of self-indulgence while Stephen Wight captures the dilemma of Stan torn between the glimmerings of moral awareness and the fun of being along for the ride.

Until that last half-hour the play is great fun. Unfortunately there isn't an interval at which to escape.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Don Juan in Soho - Donmar 2006