Don Juan in Soho at Wyndham’s TheatreCultureTheatre
Patrick Marber’s update of Molière’s 1665 Don Juan is, in short, crude and somewhat flaccid. Had it not been for Tennant’s comedic timing, strutting his stuff with his scrawny chest and bare legs showing below his gaping dressing gown, and the on-stage chemistry between him and Adrian Scarborough, the comedy could have been a failure. The play follows the dangerous life of a reckless seducer who only lives for pleasure, leaving a trail of broken lives and hearts behind him. Perhaps we could see Marber as imparting the message that “actions have consequences”, however, it seems that Don Juan in Soho ridicules anyone who thinks there is more to life than vulgar hedonism and our greediness for gratification.
Undoubtedly talented, Tennant carries the play’s bizarre plot, which includes the stalking statue of Charles II who can speak and ride a rickshaw – the dullest five minutes of the production – but this doesn’t detract from the overall hilarity of the performance. The most enjoyable sequence is Tennant’s aggressive delivery of a soliloquy outlining the effects of media and the furious hypocrisy of the world we live in. Don Juan condemns the hollow patriotism that our world leaders promote. The playwright’s harsh criticism of modern-day society is masterful and ingenious, and rings true with the entire audience, regardless of age. Aside from this, Marber draws on Donald Trump to find cheap laughs: Don Juan accepts criticism from his servant Stan (Scarborough), but justifies his actions stating they are certainly not as bad as “grabbing pussy”. In truth, the play doesn’t need the Trump jibes, as Tennant’s soliloquy on society and Scarborough’s discontent is more than enough to get viewers laughing.
In addition to Tennant’s outstanding performance, Scarborough matches his quality. Despite being more moral, the actor manages to convey the temptation that living a life of pleasure exudes.
Whether one will enjoy this modern adaptation ultimately depends on their humour; some will find observing the “Dalai Lama of Debauchery” who would “do anything” (“even a hole in the ozone layer”) an enjoyable and entertaining prospect, and others won’t. Though, to see David Tennant carry this play makes it worth watching; both he and Scarborough emerge from this production with their dignity intact.
Don Juan in Soho is at Wyndham’s Theatre from 17th March until 10th June 2017. Book your tickets here.
Watch David Tennant and Patrick Marber talk about Don Juan in Soho here: