Adapted by Compagnie de la Flibuste
Directed by Clement de Dadelsen
Pros: An enjoyable production of Molière with some excellent costumes.
Cons: The pace of the show sometimes feels a little slow.
Our Verdict: A great way to get your fill of classic French theatre in English.
|Courtesy of Don Juan Cockpit
The old saying, “You wait ages for a bus, then two come at once” sometimes applies in the most unusual circumstances. In my case, with Molière. You wait a long, long time to see some Molière in London, only to get two productions within a month. The ‘French Shakespeare’ is inexplicably absent from the London stage and so it is a refreshing treat to see some of his work put on. Where else would it be held than at The Cockpit
, a cosy venue in Marylebone with an undeniable French connection?
Like Shakespeare, Molière’s stories were rarely entirely his own creation; many of them were old popular tales, for which he merely wrote a new script. This is obvious with Don Juan, a story which has been interpreted by various authors over the years, from Molière to Byron via Mozart. It is the story of the infamous womanizer, Don Juan Tenorio, who travels from place to place marrying any woman he desires. He ravishes them before hopping along to his next conquest. The libertine will not accept the consequences of his decadent and heretic lifestyle. In the end, and despite the warnings of well, pretty much everyone, Don Juan meets a sticky end and God gets the last laugh.
This particular production is brought to us by Parisian theatre troupe Compagnie de la Flibuste, and is, mostly, in English. The production casts Xavier Lafarie in the title role Don Juan as a French nobleman swaggering around Britain, with his trusty local servant Sgnanarelle, played by Christopher Paddon. Lafarie is the only member of the cast who is French and his accent is used to emphasise him as an outsider. Occasionally, when he is angry or in a sticky situation, he will even blurt out his lines in French, much to the delight of half the audience (and perhaps to the confusion of the other). He is supported by Anais Alvarado as Elvira and an ensemble consisting of Sophie Kisilevski, Chloe Wigmore, and a multifaceted Geraint Hill, who plays more roles than you can count on your fingers.
Although I liked the idea of Don Juan being cast with a strong French accent, I did feel that sometimes this made the flow of the story more difficult. Lafarie is clearly a talented actor, but occasionally the fact that he was performing in his second language slowed the pace of the action. It was a remarkable effort, and I hope (and expect) that this gripe will resolve itself as the run progresses. Generally, I thought the performances to be of a good standard, but a particular favourite of mine was Geraint Hill, who embodies many diverse characters with gusto, giving each a particular flavour. His rendition of Pierrot, a peasant whose fiancée is being seduced by Don Juan, is particularly enjoyable.
One aspect of this production that is impeccable is the wardrobe, with Bruno Marchini to thank for that. Period clothes are not easy to come by, especially on the budget of a small production, but the performers were clad in outfits that the National Theatre would be proud of. Hats off – pun entirely intended – to this fantastic work! In addition, the set was scarce, but equally well sourced. Just a few items of furniture, exquisite in taste, complemented by a sketched backdrop projected on the back wall, provided perfect setting for the action.
Overall, I would say that this is an enjoyable production of Molière which should be welcomed here in London. Although it could have used a little more pace, and although there were some slightly bizarre dancing scenes, the show was fun to watch and had some pretty epic costumes. This is a great opportunity to see some classic French theatre performed in English.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Don Juan, The Destiny of a Libertine runs at The Cockpit until 8th December 2013.