Review Round-Ups

Were the critics wooed by David Tennant's Don Juan?

Patrick Marber’s play also stars Adrian Scarborough and Gawn Grainger

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage


"Patrick Marber's bracing, brutal and ferociously funny update of Molière's Dom Juan had a brief outing at the Donmar Warehouse in 2006 – and as the world turns, and issues of identity, selfishness and morality become ever more pressing, it is exhilarating to have a slightly revised version back in the West End."

"It's particularly welcome to see it placed – under Marber's own directorial gaze – in the exceptional hands of David Tennant (as DJ) and Adrian Scarborough (as his loyal servant Stan) whose playing releases all the play's unashamedly filthy comedy while simultaneously never losing sight of the central question at the heart of this and every other telling of the Don Juan legend; How is this amoral and compulsive seducer to be judged?"

"It's powerful stuff, though I can't help missing the absence of any external moral dimension – that sense of other that makes the gaping hell of Mozart's Don Giovanni, for example, so terrifying. "

"In the end, it is [the] central performances and the vicious wit of Marber's script that linger into the night, finding resonance in a play from 1665 to throw some light and a lot of laughter on the world in which we live today."

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"Watching [Tennant], I was reminded of Christopher Hampton’s comment that the actor playing Molière’s Don Juan must seduce the audience. It is precisely because Tennant invests a heartless libertine, now simply known as DJ, with a beguiling, fleet-footed charm that Marber’s update acquires a subversiveness it lacked on its first outing at the Donmar Warehouse in 2006."

"It is Tennant’s performance that gives the play a disturbing ambivalence. He skips nimbly from one seduction to the next. He is whimsically comic: recalling a urinal encounter with a rival, he mimetically contrasts the relative size of their organs. Having rescued his brother-in-law from vicious thugs, he pirouettes across the stage with balletic glee before raising two fingers to his own attacker."

"Adrian Scarborough is equally good as his potato-faced sidekick, who records his master’s conquests on a database and is compounded of envy and exasperation. Gawn Grainger as the hero’s duped dad, Danielle Vitalis as the angrily bewitched Elvira and Dominique Moore as the open-mouthed Lottie provide assured support."

"What is unnerving, however, is Tennant’s capacity to make us empathise with an impenitent egotist driven by sexual obsession."

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard


"It’s Tennant who dominates. He brings an exciting physicality and air of sexy mischief to the odious DJ – i.e. Don Juan, though it’s not hard to imagine him spinning a few unlistenable tunes in some terrible, expensive nightclub."

"Marber’s adaptation of Molière’s classic morality play premiered eleven years ago. Now he’s updated it, and he also directs. Perhaps he should have relocated it, given that Soho is these days hardly a byword for seediness. Instead there are the inevitable quips about Donald Trump and the hollow patriotism of 2017’s politics. This is a world of selfies, fake tan and almond milk lattes."

"The writing never feels fierce enough. The most enjoyable scene, also the most outrageous, involves DJ chatting up a new bride whose husband he’s put in a coma. At the same time he’s being pleasured under a blanket by another woman. There’s a sense here of real danger, of a reckless bastard who would 'do it with anything – a hole in the ozone layer'."

"But there are too many moments when the play lacks bite and seems crude or even a bit dull."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph


"I’m not going to beat about the bush. Patrick Marber’s updated version of Moliere’s hoary 1665 comedy strikes me as pants. I didn’t see it when it was first staged a decade ago at the Donmar with bad-boy Welsh actor Rhys Ifans in the predatory title role. The latter’s wild-eyed antics were celebrated as a tour de force. And the script was hailed by one critic, I kid you not, as "line by line… the best written of all Marber’s plays…"

"Suffering the coitus interruptus of an interval and laden with the would-be funky garb of physicalised hedonism (lots of dry-ice and cavorting, scantily clad types in masks) the show feels like a prolonged awkward fumble."

"It might sound odd to suggest that Tennant emerges with his dignity intact, but you’ve got to admire the cojones of an actor who manages to lend a certain gravitas as well as his customary twinkle to skirt-chasing attitudes of a repellent, unreconstructed variety (topped with a truly misjudged incidental teasing of Islam)."

"A red-light from me, then, for this flaccid affair although, for some, the temptation to ogle Tennant in the flesh will prove too great to resist."

Ann Treneman, The Times


"This revival of Patrick Marber’s rewrite of Molière has its ropey moments but then this is Soho we are talking about. "

"The set by Anna Fleischle is functional with moments of inspiration (a moving night sky) and even magic (the statue). Marber also directs and the production is uneven, not to mention borderline tacky at times (silly dancing, good karaoke). But it is also funny, acerbic, biting."

"This is a morality play that won’t take itself seriously and, frankly, with a talking statue, neither can we. It’s a play about Soho ("Soooo Hoooooo," trills Tennant, claiming it’s an ancient hunting cry), hardly the picture of health itself. Did Marber want to keep it rough around the edges? If so, he’s succeeded a little too well but David Tennant does make a very good bad boy."

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail


"The idea is to present him as some sort of Russell Brand figure, seedily irresistible to slinky sirens. But Mr Tennant is not quite feral enough a figure to pull off that transformation. He is too quizzical, possibly too keen to be popular. He looks more like ITV political editor Robert Peston on a busy news day."

"The point of the Don Juan tale, normally, is to portray excess which finally receives its dues. This Don Juan certainly lives a decadent life. He is nonchalant about being unfaithful to his wife Elvira (an underpowered Danielle Vitalis) even though they returned from their honeymoon just two weeks earlier."

"There are only so many times you want to watch this playboy writhe with lasses in their smalls. Mr Marber’s writing is full of verve and has been updated to include topical swipes at everyone from Donald Trump to little Prince George. After last week’s events at Westminster, I found a knifing scene hard to watch."

"This is a play trying to have it both ways, exposing decadence while simultaneously charging big money for that very sort of titillation. It may be exotic and handsome but ultimately it is as hooked on shallowness as Don Juan."

Don Juan in Soho runs at Wyndham's Theatre runs until 10 June.