Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Theatre review: Don Juan Comes Back From the War

Writing in the 1930s with the Second World War on the horizon, Ödön von Horváth relocated Don Juan to Germany at the end of the First. In Don Juan Comes Back From the War the now middle-aged lothario (Zubin Varla) returns to Berlin in the belief that he can start again where he left off, surrounded by women. But a sudden heart attack proves otherwise and his visit to the hospital is the start of a search for meaning, and perhaps an understanding of where he's been going wrong in thinking he knows anything about love. For all his philandering he had been due to settle down, but left his bride-to-be at the alter before going to war; he now thinks finding her again is the answer.

Ellan Parry is the latest designer to squeeze a raised thrust stage into the Finborough, full of hidden compartments that conceal props, and the clever design helps Andrea Ferran's production give the feel of Don Juan's odyssey through the streets of Berlin. A cast of six play the dozens of women he encounters along the way, and there's a very strong central section when he reunites with a former lover (Rosie Thomson) he's long since forgotten. The production itself, and the performances, are hard to fault, but I've found von Horváth's work hard to click with in the past, and it's the same again here: In the end, the play left me cold.

Don Juan Comes Back From the War by Ödön von Horváth in a version by Duncan Macmillan is booking until the 24th of March at the Finborough Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes straight through.

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