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Don Juan in Soho review at Donmar Warehouse London

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Must lust always get its comeuppance? In Patrick Marber’s energetic updating, Moliere’s Don Juan retains its comic brio, even if it fails to find a modern equivalent of roasting in the flames of hell.

The son of an earl, Don Juan, here called DJ, has a fantastic sexual appetite, and chases skirt compulsively while openly acknowledging the fact that he has never really grown up. Rhys Ifans gives DJ an attractive sleazy charm and his cynical honesty can be beguiling.

At the start of the play, DJ ditches his wife Elvira, an Irish charity worker, and pursues every woman he comes across. Helping him in his seductions is his trembling sidekick Stan, a streetwise London lad who dreams of nothing more than settling down.

Marber’s play shines with a dark wit and is studded with memorable lines. DJ is described as “Satan in a suit from Saville Row” and Stan as “nothing but a fly on a horse’s shitty arse”. And there is a real frisson of danger when his DJ asks a Muslim to blaspheme against Allah.

Michael Grandage’s sprightly production, with Christopher Oram’s luridly lit sets, is dominated by Ifans, who charms the women and abuses the men with a lustful energy that tails off into dissipated exhaustion. He is ably supported by Stephen Wight’s Stan, Laura Pyper’s Elvira and David Ryall as his father.

Yet, despite its gleeful comedy, verbal agility and contemporary references, you can’t quite shake off the feeling that DJ’s final punishment is not quite as scary as it was in Moliere’s original.

Production Information

Donmar Warehouse, London, November 30-February 10

Author
Patrick Marber
Director
Michael Grandage
Producer
Donmar Warehouse
Cast includes
Rhys Ifans, Laura Pyper and Stephen Wight
Running time
1hr 30mins

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