Though it was banned after only 15 performances in 1660, Molière’s interpretation of the Don Juan legend seems fairly tame by today’s standards. Compare his shenanigans to those of the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto or the Co-Op’s Reverend Flowers with his rent boys and his satchel of assorted hard drugs. But old-fashioned as it is, there are still plenty of laughs in this spry interpretation of the story by the Paris-based collective, La Compagnie de la Flibuste.
The handsome and luxuriously-maned Xavier Lafarie is well cast as the eponymous playboy, bringing both a debonair swagger and an insouciant Gallic shrug to the role. Lafarie is especially fine in the comic sequences – hilariously bamboozling a debt-collecting dullard or persuading a pair of buxom peasant girls to join him in a jolly woodland threesome. A bit more sinfulness would have been welcome – at least enough to get Don Juan up to the level the politicos grabbing the headlines this weekend.
The production feels less certain in the serious scenes – perhaps because the 17th century debates around morality and religion feel stale now. It’s easy to zone out – especially in the second half – but at least you have a sexy cast to distract you until another dirty bit comes along. The smart set design by Etienne Beydon and splendid costumes by Bruno Marchini, who has worked at Chanel for 15 years, combine to provide a simple yet evocative Baroque ambience. While the danse macabre sequences that punctuate the drama are somehow simultaneously weird, funny and sweet.
A long way from definitive, this Don Juan is nevertheless a witty cocksure romp that deserves to be seen.
Don Juan is on at the Cockpit Theatre until 8 December 2013. Tickets £15 / £12. Londonist saw the play on a complimentary ticket.