Image by Geoff Marshall/TheDigitelImage by 20090522-don-john.jpg
Update May 23: The Charleston City Paper's formal review is up, and they've give it a big ol' thumbs up. Go take a read.
You know the crew for Spoleto are pushing something when a show gets not only the opening preview slot but its own roll of stickers and dedicated URL.
If you had dared stop for even a moment as you entered the Memminger last night, you would have found an "I ♥ Don John" being slapped upon your upper torso.
Get more coverage in our Spoleto special section. For some reason, images of Miami Vice (Don Johnson) and a song by Brit-Pop band the Pet Shop Boys "Don Juan" was all that was going round in my head last night prior to the performance, thoughts that were soon eradicated as you were readily consumed into this very modern piece of theatre.
Still there's more to this Brit-reworking of Don Giovanni than stickers, and what's in my head; Let's dive into the show.
A group of 'workmen' casually huddled round the non-raised stage, and you realized as the auditorium filled up, that they were part of the ensemble ... just ... casually waiting for the show to start along with everyone else.
But that set the tone as you realized that it was going to be a case of 'anything goes' in terms of breaking the rules of traditional theatre, as people moved in and out from the sides, rode bicycles, lights exploded, glitter balls descended lighting up the audience and songs were everything from original piece to mimed Barry White numbers.
I sent a Tweet at the interval (yes - Interval. I'm a Brit watching a Brit production, I'm allowed to use that instead of 'Intermission') with death count: One, The Blow Job count: Two, and the General Sex count: Four. It didn't get much higher in the second act, but there were enough twists and turns away from the original plot to keep you guessing what might come next -- or what part of the stage it might come from.
At one point, it all got a bit too much and it felt like all I really wanted was for someone to enter stage left, do their piece and exit stage right. Instead they had to clamber and dance over moving mini-industrial shipping containers, and make you wonder if they were going to slip and fall and break their neck. But they didn't, and in fact Icelandic lead Gísli Örn Garðarsson nimbly pranced his way across the set with great finesse -- picking up and dropping women en route.
The sexual content did not go down too well with the some of the ladies I was sitting near. "Sometimes the suggestion of seeing something is better than seeing something" my friend Sarah opinionated. True --even I was wondering if the actress who had her red panties ripped off of her (twice) in the second act had a skin-tone pair on underneath to cover all, or did those in the front, front row get an eyeful? "But you''ve got to admit, they've got us all talking about it" she added, smiling as she said it.
Don's sidekick Nobby was a clear pastiche on Slade's Noddy, whilst his apparel simultaneously reminded me of the time when I was 6 years old and had my red adidas sports bag stolen from the gym at school -- kudos to the props department. And yes, I was born in the 1970's.
It felt just a little long towards the end -- it could have been ten minutes shorter than it was for it to wrap. I hid the sneaky glance to my watch from my friend next to me - and to the PR Director of Spoleto who I found sitting the other side of me. But just when I thought it was going to go out with a whimper, they slammed back in for one of the most fun encores you're likely to see. Everyone else gave it the big SO, but I'm never one to ovate whilst standing, so this humble Brit merely sat, craning his neck whilst applauding all the same.
"So was it good?," asks my colleague Harper just now as it I sit and type this up this morning. I pause.
"It was good", I meekly replied. Maybe that's being too harsh. But we've only just started three weeks of mayhem. I'm saving my extreme adulation and an "It was excellent!" for something else, I'm sure.
Don't just take my verdict though, The Post and Courier's Spoleto Today rather liked it, saying: "If you go see it, buckle up. It’s a wild ride."
And don't forget that after the show you can swing by Vickery's to grab a Don John-themed drink, the Union Jack.