The Times **** | Theatre: Don Juan in Soho at Wyndham’s


Ann Treneman: Rakish David Tennant does make a very good bad boy


This revival of Patrick Marber’s rewrite of Molière has its ropey moments but then this is Soho we are talking about. Among the first things you see are dancers, dressed in tragically bad underwear, gyrating around the stage in a way that looks like a Zumba class gone rogue. There is a statue of Charles II in the background, curly locks cascading stonily, and a film backdrop that is a blurry pool.

We see a chauffeur, the perfectly named Stan, trying to explain why his boss, an aristo nympho (yes, it’s Don Juan), might be indisposed at the moment. “He’s banging a Croatian supermodel,” he says to a man. “Has he gone mad?” demands the man who just happens to be DJ’s wife’s brother.

Forget him, I think, have we gone mad? But then David Tennant arrives on stage, the Don Juan in question, in a pink and grey plaid suit, red tie and silly hair and all is well. He poses, pounces, lolls and leaps, lascivious, rapacious and quite unrepentant. “Praise the priapic, not the parsimonious!” he cries. “All I seek is pleasure. I’m not a rapist. Where’s the harm? I don’t grab pussy!”

It seems Don Juan is not a Trump fan. Who knew? It’s an easy laugh and just a little hypocritical for DJ to be slinging judgments around but you forgive because Tennant is brilliant, his gangly form made to play a man always on the prowl, restless, funny, incorrigible. He is the perfect foil to Adrian Scarborough, plump and slightly ridiculous at all times, as Stan.

Their relationship is the only real one in Marber’s play, first seen in 2006. The set by Anna Fleischle is functional with moments of inspiration (a moving night sky) and even magic (the statue). Marber also directs and the production is uneven, not to mention borderline tacky at times (silly dancing, good karaoke). But it is also funny, acerbic, biting. It can acquire a dangerous edge, such as when DJ confronts a rough sleeper who is Muslim and offers him his £6,000 watch if he ridicules Allah. Nothing is sacred in DJ’s world.

This is a morality play that won’t take itself seriously and, frankly, with a talking statue, neither can we. It’s a play about Soho (“Soooo Hoooooo,” trills Tennant, claiming it’s an ancient hunting cry), hardly the picture of health itself. Did Marber want to keep it rough around the edges? If so, he’s succeeded a little too well but David Tennant does make a very good bad boy. Byron, eat your heart out.

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  • Posing and on the prowl, David Tennant is on brilliant form in the starring role
  • If Marber wanted to keep it rough around the edges, he’s succeeded a little too well
  • Marber’s play, first seen in 2006, is funny, acerbic and biting


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