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A CurtainUp London Review
Don Juan in Soho
by Malcolm Beckett
"I am a radical feminist" — Don Juan
Don Juan in Soho
David Tennant as Don Juan (Photo: Helen Maybanks)
Patrick Marber has revived, updated and now directed his 2006 adaptation of Moliere's seventeenth century play. The drama has several plot devices that have been adopted and used by others in telling the tale of the serial seducer.

The early statement by Don Juan's manservant Stan (the excellent Adrian Scarborough) that we will not like Don Juan (David Tennant) reminded me of The Libertine, the 1994 play by Stephen Jeffreys,  where the Earl of Rochester tells the audience, "You will not like me now and you will like me a good deal less as we go on."

The credit for this production, and its obvious success, must lie with the casting of David Tennant and Adrian Scarborough. They both enter their roles with gusto.

Tennant shines as the man obsessed with sex. He says he has worked it out that he has had sex three times a day since he was 14. All these encounters are meticulously added to and updated in Stan's database. The women pass in the night, seduced, screwed, scored and forgotten.

Somewhat strangely the play opens in a hotel lobby with Don Juan just back off his honeymoon with Elvira (Danielle Vitalis). Therein lies danger. Stan describes going into the bedroom where Juan is having sex with a Czechoslovakian supermodel as looking at "shapes like balloon animals" presumably in rut. Juan himself admits he would, "do it with anything — a hole in the ozone layer!"

Don Juan comes from the landed gentry; his father's estate employs over 300 people. His father, Louis (Gawn Grainger) tries to instil in Juan the sense of responsibility that goes with wealth. For Don Juan the estate workers are irrelevant save for the opportunity of more transitory sex.

This adaptation has many "in jokes" about Trump and today's pretentiousness which makes it all the more enjoyable. At the start, and at times through the play, there are mercifully short musical dance interludes with music excerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni to "I've got the music in me" originally performed by Kiki Dee. Tennant gyrates preens and poses so that his very movements deliver Marber's sexual humour, of which there is plenty.

The play is a male dominated outing and the women are merely plot fillers. I found the female roles to be the weakest, both in the script and in the rendition by the actors. Some of the speeches are too long and the women deserve better but they have to add to the narrative.

The setting is Soho, the centre of London's sex trade and harks back to the days of sex shops, massage parlours and nude encounter rooms, now replaced by trendy bars and restaurants. Anna Fleischle's sets are simple but convey changes of location from the hotel reception, to a hospital waiting room to boudoirs.

The beginnings of the denouement come with another familiar stratagem: the talking statue. Is this a drug fuelled hallucination or a portent of things to come? Don Juan even convinces his father that he has had an epiphany but in reality he is intent on protecting his inheritance. The story moves on with pace and good humour. Occasionally it had me thinking that it was going to sag, but it kept my interest for the hundred and five minute playing time.

Why you would want to see this? Firstly David Tennant is excellent, energetic, forceful and believable. Secondly, Adrian Scarborough as Stan fully interlinks and bounces off Don Juan's excesses. The male parts are well written and the use of music adds to the overall enjoyment. Such drawbacks as there are can be forgiven as they are but short-lived.

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Don Juan in Soho
Written and directed by Patrick Marber after Moliere
Starring: David Tennant, Adrian Scarborough
With: Supporting Cast: Theo Barklem-Biggs, Mark Ebulue, Mark Extance,Gawn Grainger, David Jonsson, Dominique Moore, Emma Naomi, Alice Orr-Ewing, Himesh Patel, Adrian Richards, William Spray, Danielle Vitalis, Eleanor Wyld .
Design: Anna Fleischle
Lighting Design: Mark Henderson
Composer and Sound Design: Adam Cork
Video Design: Dick Straker
Movement: Polly Bennett
Running time: two hours 5 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0844 482 5120
Booking to 10th June 2017
Reviewed by Malcolm Beckett based on 29th March 2016 performance at Wyndhams, Charing Cross Road, Londin WC2H 0DA Tube: Leicester Square
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