“Don Juan” at the National Theatre

23.05.2012 § 2 Comments

In the dimly lit colonnade of a villa’s courtyard, a blindfolded young lady is laughingly following the call of a tiny bell in the hand of a masked gentleman. Her laughter echoes from the empty stage. Three masked figures peel away from the shadows and join their game with predatory grace. Two grab the gentleman, gag him and drag him off the stage. The third takes out a bell and lures the lady towards him. Completely oblivious, she trustingly approaches the predator calling to her with the bell of her beloved. He lunges at her and she screams in fear. Her screams attract the men from the house. Cornered and surrounded, the predator shoots the girl’s father and disappears in the ensuing chaos.

Alexander Morfov’s version of “Don Juan” at the National Theatre in Sofia begins with this brutal, dark scene. It determines the mood of the rest of the play – a play about cheating the trusting, violating the just and the unpunished evil of a corrupt man.

Dean Donkov (Don Juan) and Zahari Baharov (Sganarel)

Don Juan sleeps in a coffin like a vampire, seduces tens of portside girls, tortures hermits and nuns and desecrates the tomb of the Commodore, the father of the girl in the first scene. Dean Donkov portrays him like a panther – predatory, tireless and unwavering. Just as strong, but also with a cold and calculating energy, Zahari Baharov supports him as Sganarel. The talented ensemble of the National Theatre (with Ana Papadopolu, Reni Vrangova, Julian Vergov, Rusi Chanev) completes and adds colour to every scene. In the Commodore’s tomb, ten actors turn into a multilevel marble statue depicting Christ’s lowering from the cross.

The artful direction contributes to the overall feeling of the play – the square columns of the courtyard seamlessly become trees, then stairs, then narrow two-metre high-backed thrones. We see Don Juan on one of these thrones, just after glimpsing the Commodore’s ghost, broken and repentant, begging his father for help in starting a new life. And just when the audience is convinced that he has finally repented, he divulges that he’s lying to his father and merely needs more money to continue raging.

In the second-last scene of the play, the predator is sitting on the same throne, having dinner. Another two-metre platform serves as his table, the same platform that’s already been a dock and, as the brother of the latest disgraced maiden (played by Valeri Yordanov) arrives, suddenly becomes a duelling arena on which we all hope that good will triumph. But the merciless seducer and unbeatable swordsman eludes his well deserved punishment: his opponent slumps to the ground at the very first clash, and Don Juan continues drinking with his friends, surrounded by women hypnotized by his dangerous, merciless charm.

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