Translated by Brett Bodemer
Directed by Anastasia Revi
Hoxton Hall, London, 2018
There is nothing so sweet as to overcome the resistance of a beautiful woman; and, where they are concerned, I have the ambition of a conqueror… (Don Juan)
DON JUAN is a feast for the senses where theatre, comedy, lust, music, luxury, masks and the labyrinth of dreams and desires all mingle and mix deliciously. The Don Juan cocktail is light, dangerous, charming and addictive…Set against the backdrop of the Venice Carnival, DON JUAN is a black comedy that follows the last day of the legendary playboy’s life.
Charming… egocentric… atheist… philanderer… recently wed, Don Juan is about to commit adultery against his new wife. Accompanied by his servant, Sganarelle, he sets out in pursuit of his next amorous conquest. Sganarelle challenges his master’s libertine views as the pair engages in a hilarious philosophical debate to defend their equally self-serving moralities. Don Juan is remorseless, unrepentant and has a voracious libido. Sganarelle is clever, pious but ambitious.
The legendary playboy’s notorious exploits have captured the imaginations of playwrights, poets and composers for stage, opera and screen. Lord Byron, Mozart (Don Giovanni), Patrick Marber (Don Juan in Soho) and Johnny Depp (Don Juan de Marcos) amongst others have been inspired by the tale.
Don Juan – Peter Rae
Sgannarelle – David Furlong
Donna Elvira – Emmanuela Lia
Gusman/ Charlotte/ Begger/Don Alonse/ M. Dimanche – Benoît Gouttenoire
Pierrot/Mathurine/Don Carlos/ Don Luis/ Statue – Samuel Lawrence
Illusion of Love – Signe Preston
Creative and Production Team
Directed by Anastasia Revi
Set and Costumes by Valentina Sanna
Wigs and Hair by Umberto Fiorilla
Lighting Design by Chuma Emembolu
Production by Martina Reynolds
Stage Manager and Assistant Lighting Designer Marina Konta
Rehearsals Stage Manager Fetin Sardaneh
Production Photography by Panayis Chrysovergis
Video/Editing by Yiannis Katsaris
PR by Chris Hislop
Graphics by Liliana Papadouraki
Rehearsal Photography by OscarGoesWild
Production Technician James Lisk
Anastasia Revi, makes bold, enriching changes, emphasising a less considered aspect of Don Juan as a man who is victim of his own desires. The initial scene setting is brilliantly clever, playing with the audience’s preconceptions, and the added ‘Illusion of Love’ character creates a visual dimension to Don Juan’s vulnerability. In addition, placing the action at the Venice carnival rather than Sicily allows for a more playful atmosphere. Peter Rae is superb as the free-thinking, amoral Don Juan, Sganarelle, wonderfully portrayed by David Furlong… it is the chemistry of their relationship that defines this interpretation and drives the narrative. The discarded yet defiant Elvira is played by Emmanuela Lia is a strong performance. There is a wealth of distinctive characters in the talented hands of Benoît Gouttenoire and Samuel Lawrence who, behind Venetian masks, appear as men, women, young and old. In particular, Lawrence’s Pierrot and Don Luis stand out. Signe Preston as the Illusion of Love gracefully weaves round the theatre enticing Don Juan’s susceptibility. Anastasia Revi’s inspired direction assimilates the whole theatre space, involving the audience in the action and giving energy to the production. The music is beautifully chosen and forms a beguiling and well-crafted backdrop, at times providing its own comedy. The resourceful set design by Valentina Sanna uses a handful of props to conjure up a privileged lifestyle and she makes good use of height on the small stage. Chuma Emembolu’s lighting articulates the contrasting moments with precision and sensitivity, and the costumes (Valentina Sanna) and wigs (Umberto Fiorilla) add a touch of disguise to the carnival spirit. Theatre Lab’s ‘Don Juan’ transforms the cliché of seductiveness into an almost endearing cynicism, a weakness of indulgence rather than the acme of male prowess, and in doing so, the female element becomes more dominant and the passages of philosophising make more sense. With an excellent cast and lively staging this is somehow both rollicking entertainment, and food for thought.
THE SPY IN THE STALLS ****
This is a high energy, fast paced production. The cast address the audience directly and tell Moliere’s story with a strong emphasis on movement and caricature. The direction by Anastasia Revi made excellent use of the superb Hoxton Hall auditorium. The costuming by Valentina Sanna was superb, appropriate to the theme and a bit eccentric, which accompanied by the extensive use of Venetian masks made for a visual spectacle. Much of the action was also accompanied by music well chosen for the mood of the scene being played. This is very much an ensemble piece and the six actors worked very well together. Furlong was the main interlocutor with the audience from the moment we entered the auditorium: an engaging character who although verbally disparaging his master’s degenerate lifestyle indicated through his body language that he was perhaps more than a little envious. Special mention must also go to Signe Preston in the role of the Illusion of Love, for her seductive dancing and athleticism…. A thoroughly entertaining evening.
The physical theatre elements were pleasing to the eye and provided added humour. … Very much an ensemble piece of theatre, this is a vigorous and vibrant production.
LONDON THEATRE 1 ****
There are some beautiful set pieces, costumes and props, and the regular dance intervals are a pleasant addition to the spoken scenes. … Peter Rae and David Furlong are a pleasure to watch as a very metrosexual Don Juan and his servant Sgannarelle, respectively. They provide some great comic scenes that have the audience chuckle, and continuously debate whether there is something to believe in; be it god, medicine or love. The riotous, overly confident and sassy Juan makes for some great theatre. …Theatre Lab Company have turned this classic into an interesting watch, and certainly taken an approach not often found in contemporary British theatre by returning to its commedic roots. Get into the story and go with the flow, you’re in for a fun night.
Transplanting the action to the Venice Carnival is one of Anastasia Revi’s inspired choices, with masks, costumes, dance and music creating a heady atmosphere and enhancing the idea of hyprocrites hiding behind their masks. Benoît Gouttenoire (Charlotte) was sweet and funny, with exaggerated styling of Samuel Lawrence (Pierrot and Don Luis). Revi ensures that as much of the beautiful Hoxton Hall are utilised in a physical show, There are shades of Hugh Laurie’s Prince Regent in Peter Rae’s early scenes, but he grows into a funny, steely self obsessed performance, with his monologue on hypocrisy very impressive. David Furlong’s energetic Sgannarelle is a wonderful foil for Rae’s spiky Don Juan. By turns boastful, aggressive, pious and glutton- Furlong keeps the audiences interest with his physical clowning and steals every scene. Don Juan will be a treat for Molière fans.
Designer Valentina Sanna has created some rich settings in a challenging space and there are some gorgeous costumes and masks
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE