Review: Don Juan in Soho – a thrill-ride of debauchery, anarchy, and chaos

David Tennant stars in an update of Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho, loosely based on Moliere’s tragicomedy ‘Don Juan’. Having premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in 2006, Marber describes his new adaptation as ‘naughty but nice’.

Set in contemporary Soho, the focus of the classic French play is transformed to a more intimate – and particularly filthy – insight into the life of Don Juan: a hopelessly sexist, cruel seducer, who lives only for pleasure.

Don Juan in Soho

The play is opened by dancers dressed innocently – and ironically – in white, as the audience awaits what is soon to become a thrill-ride of debauchery, anarchy, and chaos. Anna Fleischle’s classic, simplistic set, featuring the impressive statue of Charles II, provides the perfect backdrop, while tensions rise as Tennant’s arrival on stage is eagerly anticipated.

Tennant thrives in his almost animalistic character: Don Juan (or DJ) seduces women (or at least attempts to) as often as possible – even if they happen to be a newly-wed crying in a hospital waiting room over their husband’s critically-ill state. He pursues his prey until they surrender: he made huge effort with Lottie, played by the compelling Dominique Moore, until their wedding day when she had become less interesting and ‘have-able’. 

David is suitably mischievous, revealing a side to his acting capabilities that is far removed from the sci-fi protagonist we knew and loved in Doctor Who, and the dour Detective Inspector in Broadchurch. He is no stranger to the stage, however, having played in Hamlet in Gregory Doran’s critically-acclaimed RSC production and in Richard II at The Barbican more recently.

Don Juan in Soho

Adrian Scarborough shines as Stan, a highly amusing but often disloyal side-kick to DJ, who claims that DJ will “do it with anything… even a hole in the o-zone layer”. As the play progresses, you find yourself growing increasingly empathetic towards sweet, stumpy Stan; the moment DJ admits the admiration he has for his companion is almost touching (it’s difficult to commit to describing a character as outrageously amoral as DJ as ‘touching’).

The hilarity of the play is certainly enhanced by its modern additions, perhaps most notably the reference to one of Trump’s many controversial remarks, but also DJ’s lecture on modern society having the need to be “friended, followed, and liked” and how we have so-called ‘progressed’ from “charcoal to the iPhone”. 

Don Juan in Soho

Despite DJ’s barbaric behaviour and severely out-dated views, Tennant succeeds in winning the audience over: you somehow forgive his lifestyle and find yourself planted firmly by his side.

Don Juan in Soho is running at the Wyndham’s Theatre until Saturday 10 June. For an unmissable, scandalous evening, book your tickets here.