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Don Juan In Soho

Published April 17, 2008

If you're looking for something a little – no, a lot, actually – more saucy and racy than your average Christmas theatre fare, you certainly can't go wrong with Don Juan In Soho, Patrick Marber's 21st-century update of Molière's 17th-century comedy. Kathryn Merritt attended the press night of this tale of a modern-day Lothario. Was she seduced?

The production opens with disgusted but faithful sidekick and servant Stan (Stephen Wight) waiting in a hotel lobby while DJ (Rhys Ifans) is doing what DJ does best in the penthouse suite with a Croatian model. And thus we are thrust into a debauched world fuelled by lust, drugs and a full Blackberry contacts database.

DJ will do and say anything to bed his conquests, even marrying the innocent and trusting aid worker Elvira (Laura Pyper), who is devastated when she discovers her new husband’s rampant infidelities. But DJ shows no remorse for his actions and discards Elvira like yesterday's newspaper. He simply moves on to the next willing victim. With thousands of names stored on his Blackberry, there is certainly no shortage of those.

What follows is a dizzying glimpse into the life of a true hedonist, including cocaine-fuelled parties with scantily clad prostitutes and 'oral gratification' in a public space with a woman whose boyfriend is worryingly close by. (Did I mention it's probably best to leave the kiddies home for this one?) But it is DJ's amorality that proves to be his undoing, as he is warned of his fateful future by a stone statue of Charles II.

Ifans is aptly cast as the eponymous louche protagonist and is supported by a strong cast (particularly David Ryall as DJ's cantankerous father), who move swiftly around the intimate space of the Donmar. Energy levels remain high throughout Michael Grandage's production, building to DJ's ultimate condemnation of modern society's ills. Rapid-fire scene changes are punctuated by a thumping soundtrack.

"Do not be charmed by this man!" Stan implores the audience at the beginning of the production. I am afraid that, like most of the people who dared to venture into DJ’s orbit, I chose to ignore this advice.

Don Juan In Soho runs at the Donmar until 10 February.

KM

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