In its new, deliciously naughty adaptation, RC Theatre has gone to town in shaking up Mozart’s opera, subverting genders of everyone but the Don himself and supplanting Giovanni’s Spain with a strobe-lit London of the late eighties. Stepping over the dance floor of Embankment’s Heaven nightclub, audience members crowd into a tinsel-town of strip joints and burger bars as the ensemble make light work of turning voice-types upside-down.
And never have such filthy words been so sonorously uttered. “Flowers are for plucking, boys are for fucking.” the nightclub-owning, sex-pest extraordinaire Giovanni tunefully proclaims. Principal Duncan Rock fills the space with his titanic torso and cascading baritone vocals.
Zoe Bonner is all shoulder pads and snide asides as Leo, the Don’s long-suffering PA (Mozart’s Leporello). Meanwhile country-casuals darlings Olivia (Stephanie Edwards) and the closeted Alan (Patrick Ashcroft) whimper melodically as the latter finds himself used and abused by London’s most notorious nymphomaniac. Alan’s mother Petra (Tamsin Dalley) is soon killed in a confrontation with the Don, singing mournfully as blood spurts from her floral apron.
Mark Cunningham is superbly indignant as Eddie, an openly gay city-worker who swings between hatred for the Don (his operatic “You Bastard!” will be ringing in my ears all week) to undying love with amusing rapidity.
But perhaps the most memorable characters were the newly engaged Marina (Helen Winter), dressed up to the nines in eighties glitter-glam and Zac (Mark Dugdale) – squeaky clean, double-denim-ed, apparently heterosexual and, of course, exactly what the Don fancies a piece of next. In duet with a predictably angry Marina, Zac sings for his forgiveness in honeyed but inventively expletive-ridden tones, to the audience’s great amusement: “Bust my balls, cut off my wiener / please don’t leave me Marina!’
Removing some characters and storylines altogether, writer/translator Ranjit Bolt does well to maintain richness in the detail of individual characters and scenes whilst condensing the performance to almost half the length of the original opera: a necessary evil given that the audience is kept literally on their toes throughout. Wear comfy shoes.