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Dom Juan review – Molière’s lothario gets lost in translation

By Miriam Gillinson
David Furlong (Sganarelle) and Dimitri Jeannest (Dom Juan) at the Vaults
The best moments are without language … David Furlong (Sganarelle) and Dimitri Jeannest (Dom Juan) at the Vaults. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Tonight we’re listening to Dom Juan’s seductive escapades in English. Tomorrow night this bilingual production, from co-creators Theatre Lab and Exchange Theatre, will be performed in French. The setting is Venice and the translation is by the American academic Brett Bodemer. Performed to mark Molière’s 4ooth anniversary, this eclectic production from director Anastasia Revi certainly celebrates the breadth of the French writer’s influence – but a lot of his original wit and clarity have been lost in translation.

Disappointingly, it’s the language that suffers most. Lead actors Dimitri Jeannest and David Furlong, playing Dom Juan and his servant Sganarelle, rattle through their dialogue at quite a clip. The frantic pacing infuses the show with a chaotic sense of comedy but there’s little weighting or shape to the scenes and they race by in a blur.

Revi’s decision to create a gender-fluid production doesn’t quite come off either. A number of Dom Juan’s female love interests are played by male actors and reinterpreted as broad comedy cameos. Nathan Ricard gives a good panto dame but it seems odd to use the casting to give yet more stage time to men (never knowingly under-served in Molière’s play) and diminish the female roles rather than enhance them.

Tellingly, the best moments are without language. Costume designer Valentina Sanna has created (or at least sourced) a striking array of masks, which inject the dance, movement and fight sequences with a lingering sense of eeriness. In particular, a comic mime performed in that most romantic of settings, a Venetian gondola, finds an interesting way to laugh at the absurdity of love.

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Dive Deeper:
For performing arts, the show is on after two years of COVID-19
Bengaluru
Queen’s A Night at the Opera inspires Japanese take on Romeo and Juliet
A Night at the Kabuki, which shifts the star-crossed lovers to 12th-century Japan, will visit London on an international tour
Actor Brian Gleeson: ‘Anyone who says they don’t ever look themselves up is a liar – It is very hard not to read reviews’
The last time Brian Gleeson performed on stage, it was to a completely empty house. It was the height of…
Jesse Williams not fazed about leaked video of him appearing naked in Broadway play
Grey's Anatomy star Jesse Williams says he is not too upset about the footage being posted on social media after…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Constellations review – a stirring love story with infinite possibilities
This intricate production of Nick Payne’s high-concept romance poses existential questions with elegance and levity
Of punk and prizes: notes from the Australian neurodiverse theatre company lauded around the world
Back to Back Theatre shocked when it took out one of the most prestigious prizes in theatre, but, says artistic…
Get all your news in one place