David Tennant’s new West End role will show him in a new light, according to the play’s writer and director.
The Broadchurch and Doctor Who star is going to be a “real anti-hero” in Don Juan in Soho, says Patrick Marber – the man behind Oscar-nominated film Closer.
It’s been described as a “savagely funny and filthy” update of Moliere’s 17th century tragicomedy Don Juan, with the action taking place in modern-day London.
Marber says Tennant has been known for playing “decent” people in recent years, but all that will change when he takes on the title role.
‘Love to hate’
“It’s a great part for him,” says Marber as rehearsals get under way at Wyndham’s Theatre.
“I think it’s going to be very funny and very rude. It’s really exciting to see my play again.”
The play was first staged in 2006, with Rhys Ifans playing Don Juan as the seducer who’s hell-bent on pleasure, and couldn’t care less about the consequences.
Of the new Don Juan, Marber – who’s also been an actor and comedian – says: “It’s a part we haven’t seen David play before, really.
“The man is an amoral hedonist, and is wicked. You love to hate him, and hate to love him – he’s a real anti-hero.”
And, according to Marber, Tennant is funny – very, very funny indeed.
“He’s always a great comedian,” he says.
“When I met him 20 years ago, he was the best light comedian I’d ever seen at the time. This is an opportunity to give full rein to his comic skills.”
Asked quite how rude Don Juan is going to be, Marber replies: “I think it’s naughty but nice. I don’t think it’s shocking.”
It’s a busy time for the playwright. He directed the just-opened West End transfer of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, which enjoyed a sell-out run at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory last year.
Fans can also see his version of Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre, with Affair star Ruth Wilson giving what Marber describes as “one of the greatest performances” he has ever seen.
‘Increasingly relevant’ play
So how is he getting through this hectic period?
“I’m getting as much sleep as I possibly can and drinking a lot of coffee,” he says.
Travesties stars Rev’s Tom Hollander as Henry Carr, a man recalling his memories as a diplomat living in Zurich in 1917, and the people he met there – including James Joyce and Lenin.
“I think it sold out on the two Toms names – Hollander and Stoppard. It’s a really nice combination of people,” said Marber.
“It’s not been on in London since the early 1990s. so I think there’s some curiosity there too.”
He described it as a “very funny play” which is “about universal things like love, sex, art and politics”.
It is especially relevant in 2017, he added.
“At the time it’s set, in Europe 1917 – exactly 100 years ago – the world is at war.
“It talks to that anxiety, that feeling that the world is disturbing and troubled. And it feels increasingly relevant, the play.
“I think that in troubled times, people want to be entertained, and it’s a very entertaining evening at the theatre. It wears its politics lightly.
“It speaks to the soul and intellect, the heart and the head.”
Travesties is at the Apollo Theatre until 29 April. Don Juan in Soho is at Wyndham’s Theatre from 17 March.