Sunday, 17 February 2008

Don Juan at the Teatro Español

Go to the theatre to see a new production, “Don Juan, Príncipe de la Tinieblas” yet another reworking of the timeless Don Juan tale this time by Catalan author Josep Palau i Fabre, known for his poetry and translations and as an authority on Pablo Picasso.

This was only my second visit to the Teatro Español. The first time was over ten years ago, to see Molière's The Imaginary Invalid. I was surprised to find the place more than half empty, on the first Saturday of its run. Maybe the critics had been hard on it. For once the constant whispered chatter of the women next to me was amusing “Shocking! Look how he's treating her!”, “Look he's dead”, “No he isn't, he moved his arm”.

As usual the programme gives plenty of waffle but not a lot of meat. I'm not really interested to know the names of the theatre's cleaners and who's in charge of the heating, but I would like to know when the play was written. It was assembled by the director, Hermann Bonnín, from shorter pieces written by Palau i Fabre when he lived in Paris, in the 1940s. I understood that it was written in Catalan, as before the performance began they announced the names of the translators, which they had presumably forgotten to mention in the programme. It's set in 1940s Barcelona. I particularly liked the way the characters moved around the empty stage to create a structured space. In (for me) an unusual twist to the tale, at the end Don Juan falls in love with a woman who turns out to be the personification of death and is seduced by her. She leads him to hell where he is tried by a jury of women and condemned to be faithful to the woman of his choosing, for eternity.

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