Don Jo at Arcola Theatre
To queer art is to create a space where the performance and the audience engage in an indexical communication whereby accepted realities are challenged through the body and sound, subverting these sites of inferred knowledge. What is performed implies new meanings that challenge accepted norms under which culture and performance carry value only within a strictly defined status quo. Thus, Arcola theatre’s Grimeborn series queers the culture of theatre, and especially of opera, by engaging in social change that looks to the community for inspiration.
Don Jo by Arcola Participation Queer Collective – music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and libretto by Leo Doulton after Lorenzo da Ponte – is a daring, extremely exciting, and modern adaptation of Mozart’s classic Don Giovanni. Through reinterpretation, director Leo Doulton’s production questions patriarchy, the conventions of gender performativity and values implied by the possession of material wealth.
Don Giovanni (Arden Fitzroy) is a predator whose hunt for love is fickle and his attachments disposable, the character necessarily entwined with a culture of instant gratification. In this classic where the victims seek revenge for their broken hearts, everything is questioned – including the genders of characters, the plot and the music – in order to dismantle old structures and reassemble a stage that celebrates diversity, creativity and a fresh outlook. Don Jo makes opera anew, allowing the community to occupy the space and represent the voices of the unrepresented, restoring cultural values where the presence of culture itself has been rejected.
Donna Anna’s (Rennee Fajardo) soprano leaves hairs standing to attention so that her words are not simply heard but felt with one’s entire body. Börje Fontalva’s delivery of Zerlina is hilariously funny, but more to the point, it hits home the internalised patriarchy that has women valuing false promises and the superficial idea of being “good at it” over honest love. Fitzroy’s reimagining of Don Giovanni is phenomenally contradictory in the role of the loathsome and lustful casanova who through coolness provokes hysteria. This is a performance not to be missed.
Photo: Hiranya Griffith Unny
Don Jo is at Arcola Theatre from 5th September until 7th September 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.