Heaven Nightclub, London (2012)
Summary: Engaging and humorous gender- and sexuality-flipped take on Mozart
Yes, you read correctly… Don Giovanni at Heaven, London’s infamous gay nightclub. Mozart’s epic opera has been completely reworked with the Don (Duncan Rock) now the owner of a gay nightclub in London and an insatiable appetite for men.
Aside from the Don (who remains a man and a baritone) every other character has been changed in some form. Mozart’s score has been heavily truncated (now running at around 1 hour 45 minutes) and the original libretto has been thrown out with the dishwater.
The result, however, actually works. Granted, it lacks the emotional impact of the full version, but this skips along at a great pace and the new libretto by Ranjit Bolt gives Don Giovanni the energy, humour and adult content that you’d expect from such a story.
The performances are near perfectly placed though, to be fair, not all the voices are strong enough for the venue. This is a ‘promenade’ performance and the cavernous nature of the venue makes it very difficult for the voices to be heard effectively, especially as they move around the performance area. That said, what really surprised me throughout was the remarkable enunciation of all performers; with a completely new libretto, and one that has some great humour, it was refreshing to be able to really make out the individual words being sung. Duncan Rock (Don Giovanni) steals the show and Zoe Bonner (as the Don’s assistant Leo) provides excellent support.
The 10-piece orchestra, Led by 1st violin, Debra White, provides a strong accompaniment and a more impactful sound than one might expect from such a small group.
The big failing of this production, unfortunately, is the venue. Unlike many other promenade performances that migrate around a number of rooms, the 6 performance areas are contained within a single large room. Whilst you are encouraged to follow the actors around the reality is that you are stuck in the position you took when you arrived. As a result, with a stationary vantage point, you can rarely see all of what’s going on and, worst of all, there are times when you can’t clearly hear the performers or orchestra.
The goal of this production is to take this reworking of Don Giovanni to new audiences in ‘real venues’. This is a wonderful idea, but they should be mindful of the fact that theatres are the way they are because they work; they give you a focal point and enable the audience to clearly see and hear what’s going on.
This is a refreshing adaptation that deserves to be seen and heard, but standing for 2 hours in a nightclub straining to see or hear isn’t the best way to enjoy this production.