It has been about ten years since Don Juan in Soho was seen in the West End, and it’s now revived with David Tennant as the titular character, and Adrian Scarborough as his bumbling sidekick.
Tennant’s strength is his ability to deliver fast paced and lengthy passages of dialogue with clarity and emotion. He is as charming and emotive as he is vile and dangerous in the role of Don Juan. Scarborough is a comic genius, and manages to create a perfect space for Tennant’s Juan to thrive, whilst allowing an element of humanity to seep through.
The show is, if course, coarse, crude and overly sexualised, with an aim to gently shock the audience, and force them into fits of awkward giggles. This is no mean feat in 21st Century Theatreland, where audiences are hardened somewhat to the sex, sexuality and the various other deviances of Don Juan. This is not a show to take your Grandmother to, unless she’s particularly keen on this kind of thing!
The set is simple, the staging effective and the occasional music and dance numbers (this being a play with the occasional songs, rather than a completely straight play) provide some theatrical light relief to the often difficult themes that run through it. Debauchery and delight may appear to be Don Juan in Soho’s focus, but running beneath that is a current of intense social commentary, a sense of huge injustice and inequality and how can a human, with a sense of an ending, decide whether to indulge their selfish desires or work for the greater good?
Large sections of the play have been updated to be even more relevant in today’s society – referencing vlogging and current affairs. In fact, I am told that potentially every night, should a particularly brilliant news story appear, Don Juan’s big speech can be amended to comment in up to the minute events. This is no mean feat for the writer (Patrick Marber, who also directs this production), and for Tennant who must learn new lines and deliver them every night. However, this kind of finger on the pulse performance allows the audiences to roar with laughter every night, a perfect satire on a world in turmoil.
Don Juan in Soho runs at the Wyndham’s theatre in London’s West End until 10th June 2017.