Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho has swaggered on to the West End at the Wyndham’s Theatre bursting with a deserved cockiness. It’s a reworking of a previous production at The Donmar Warehouse, and based on the Moliere classic, but unlike the other Moliere being revived in the West End, Don Juan in Soho gets it just right.
Don Juan – DJ – the self-proclaimed “Dalai Lama of Debauchery” saunters through life with just one goal, to bed practically every woman he sees. He’s not even racist about it, he tells us, for him any woman, or occasionally a man, will do. He will tell them anything they want to hear to get what he wants. He told Elvira he would marry her, and he did, but it’s left to long suffering servant and confidante, Stan, to explain to DJ’s new brother-in-law why the groom is in a hotel room with a Croatian super model the day after the honey moon ends. Turns out he didn’t even make it through the wedding day before straying. But DJ’s days are numbered, and we see if he takes the chance he is given to repent and live, or to maintain his own arrogant opinion of himself.
David Tennant plays a character that’s as titillating and alluring as he is repulsive, and plays it brilliantly. There’s an immense confidence in the performance that makes it hard to resist his charms, even though Stan frequently breaks the fourth wall to advise us against doing so. There is a wickedly funny scene when DJ is trying to secure his next conquest while being pleasured under a blanket by his last, there is not one redeeming feature about the character, yet it is impossible not to be taken in by him. In the second act Tennant launches a scathing diatribe on everything from President Trump to vloggers and iPhones, this summed up his performance perfectly; gripping, passionate and definitely a guilty pleasure.
But Tennant does not steal the show entirely. Adrian Scarborough forms the second half of this formidable double act, completely self-effacing he keeps threatening to leave his master, but needs to be paid first. Scarborough gives not only a funny, but a very touching and nuanced performance. While all too brief appearances from Gawn Grainger and Theo Barklem-Biggs demonstrate that a talented cast has been assembled for this production.
Fairly simple staging is brought to life with some cleverly, and sparingly, used video projections by Dick Straker. A moving statue, driving a flying cycle rickshaw, is almost worth seeing the show for itself, but there’s also great music from Adam Cork and movement from Polly Bennett.
Don Juan in Soho is suave, sexy and far from subtle, drawing gasps from the audience with almost every line. You’re left feeling incredulous that such a character could exist, yet are strangely drawn to him. This particular production feels fresh, and allows us all to indulge in a little recklessness, even if it is just for a couple of hours, and from the safety of our seat in the auditorium.