Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 11 Oct
John D is a 21st century mover and shaker. He sets up meetings with celebrities, has his photograph on billboards and indulges in high-profile charity work. He is all ego and, as played by Mark Springer, both charismatic and narcissistic.
There’s a touch of Matthew Bourne’s recent Dorian Gray about his early scenes with their cool monochrome interiors and self-regarding media types, and director Jeremy Raison gives a similarly supernatural spin to Carlo Goldoni’s play. Where Dorian Gray stays youthful thanks to an ageing portrait in the attic, John D finds a new lease of life as a time-travelling sex tourist thanks to a deal with the Devil. In a Life on Mars-style twist, he is propelled back to the 1730s and takes on the name of Don Juan. Having staked his soul on the impossibility of his ever falling in love – enjoying a couple of sexual romps to prove it – he gets his comeuppance when Neve McIntosh’s elegant Donna Anna makes him crave something more spiritual.
Goldoni and Wilde have the same moral: pleasures of the flesh taken to excess lead to death and decay. The problem with the time-leap conceit is it produces a mismatch in social values. Don Juan’s behaviour, shocking in 18th century terms, is merely irresponsible today. Because the play is seen through his eyes, the wronged women come across as historical anomalies rather than characters able to comment on today’s sexual values. The result is a hard-working production that gets lost in time.