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Stuart King

Review: DOM JUAN at The Vaults, Waterloo

Dom Juan - The Vaults It is entirely appropriate that the Theatre Lab Company are staging the playboy exploits of Molière’s famously unrepentant philanderer, at the quintessentially seedy and bohemian Vaults in Waterloo.

Amidst the cavernous, atmospheric arches, a decrepit Venetian carnival backdrop has been concocted in which Dom Juan is cautioned by his faithful and pious manservant about his rapacious libido and the considerable trouble into which it regularly lands them. Sganarelle is long-suffering and trusty, but is thwarted at every turn in his attempts to convince his master to repent and pursue a life of goodness and piety. Juan remains determined to taunt heaven by continuing with his amoral exploits and resolutely refuses to accept admonishment from anyone — his manservant, his new wife Donna Elvira, and even his furious elderly father who loudly declaims the shame which his unruly son has brought on the name of their ancestors.

On the 400th anniversary of Molière’s birth, it is encouraging to see that there is still an appetite for productions featuring the French master’s wit and erudition, but sadly this production (with its wobbly stage props, wobbly sword fights and occasionally wobbly line delivery), isn’t quite the glowing tribute to the great man’s skills which this reviewer had hoped to see. During the 90 minute running time, the 6 cast members try their damnedest to maintain a galloping pace and entertain their captive audience, but despite a unending rumbustiousness the show still feels rather flat, with its awkwardly over-earnest sections slotted into an unending clownish jocularity. Molière is best when his wit can be heard and the physical antics required for his plot lines are realised with tightly rehearsed choreography and sharp, precise movement. Under Anastasia Revi’s flouncy, ethereal and clumsy direction, either too much is going on, or a cast member is thrust forward to sing over a cumbersome set change…And just to add a truly surreal twist to the period piece, at one point the company — backed by an electric guitar strumming human statue — sing along to Bowie’s “Show Me the Way to the Next Whisky Bar”. I’m sure by that point many were itching to make a dash for it (and it’s just possible that this reviewer may have been guilty of reaching for his hip flask)!

The joint production with Exchange Theatre is alternating performances in French and English and features the hard-working and well-meaning talents of Dimitri Jeannest, David Furlong, Fanny Dulin, Nathan Ricard, Alexis Danan and Signe Preston.