"Stylised Tale of a Scoundrel"
by Paul Ackroyd for remotegoat on 02/05/18

Don Juan was first performed in 1665 and it caused a scandal with its portrayal of amorality. It only ran for 15 performances and when it was eventually published it was heavily censored. Today we are probably less concerned with its sexual content, but more with the casual way in which Don Juan treats his sexual conquests. Is this a play for the "Me Too" generation?

The production by Theatre Lab Company currently running at Hoxton Hall is a highly stylised portrayal in a translation by Brett Bodemer. This is a high energy, fast paced production, which owes much to the earlier performance styles of Commedia Dell'arte and the Elizabethan Masks. The cast address the audience directly and tell Moliere's story with a strong emphasis on movement and caricature.

The direction by Anastasia Revi made excellent use of the superb Hoxton Hall auditorium. Much of the playing was on the high stage but the cast frequently descended into the auditorium to act around, in, and with the audience. The first high balcony was also effectively used for the various purposes which are best not revealed in a review.

The costuming by Valentina Sanna was superb, appropriate to the theme and a bit eccentric, which accompanied by the extensive use of Venetian masks made for a visual spectacle. Much of the action was also accompanied by Spanish-style music well chosen for the mood of the scene being played.

This is very much an ensemble piece and the six actors worked very well together. Although due to the extensive use of masks it was not always possible to ascertain who was playing which role Peter Rae and David Furlong played the central roles of Don Juan and his servant Sgannarelle. Rae has a long skeletal body, with a bald head, which had the effect of making us wonder what it was about him which was so irresistible to women. Furlong as his servant was the main interlocutor with the audience from the moment we entered the auditorium: an engaging character who although verbally disparaging his master's degenerate lifestyle indicated through his body language that he was perhaps more than a little envious. Special mention must also go to Signe Preston in the role of the Illusion of Love, for her seductive dancing and athleticism.

The plot follows the original but with the five acts condensed to 90 minutes of continuous action with the cast providing providing little dramatic vignettes to cover the scene changes. While the story was easy to follow, a short while spent with a synopsis of Moliere's original version would add to the enjoyment of a thoroughly entertaining evening.

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