Don Juan

Rating ***
Reviewed by Alex Foott

Performance date – Friday 22nd November 2013
The Cockpit Theatre
Running until 8th December

Free thinking and the avant-garde have long been the pivot upon which many plays spin their tale, constantly urging society to reshape itself. Molière’s Don Juan: The Destiny of a Libertine is one of the earliest and most recognised pieces of theatre that openly scrutinises the Church and celebrates carnal desires. Challenging the existence of an afterlife and elevating logic above belief, this baroque farce undeniably paints a question mark above religion’s more oppressive doctrines.

Don Juan, a wealthy gentleman and decided atheist, leads a life of debauchery and promiscuity. His wife Dona Elvira beseeches him to change his ways or risk losing her, though she is quite unaware of the scale of his continuous adultery. Escaping her pleas, Don Juan takes his servant Sganarelle on a jaunt across the sea to a small village and soon sets his sights on two socially aspirational young women. As the two girls bicker for his attention, he sneaks away, only to be pursued by Dona Elvira’s brother who seeks to punish Don Juan for his infidelity. Constantly evading the righteous demands of those around him, Don Juan is eventually haunted by a higher power who demands retribution.

La Compagnie de la Flibuste’s portrayal of Molière’s attack on pious hypocrisy is both stylistically and directorially traditional, which actually highlights the timeless struggle between the devout and the hedonistic. Anais Alvarado and Chloë Wigmore torment the audience with graceful yet comedic physicality as two skeletal wraiths in a series of gleeful dances, demonstrating the futility of all worldly ambitions. Xavier LaFarie’s intense gaze and rapid delivery provide Don Juan with a mixture of abhorrent self-aggrandisement and intellectual reasoning while the multi-roling Geraint Hill acts as his foil. Hill expertly handles each of his six characters with flair, supplying them with a unique stance and voice that identifies all of Don Juan’s victims.

While the performances are by no means realistic, the exaggerated caricatures are appropriate for the comedy. The overt coarseness of typically French humour does not always find its target among a British audience, yet the silliness lends a sense of ridicule to the piece. Clement de Dadelsen’s direction is simple and to the point while the cast stride and flutter about the stage in equal measure with endearing characterisations. A charming and inoffensive satire of the high and mighty.

Don Juan – La Compagnie de la Flibuste
Directed by Clement de Dadelsen