And darkly flows the Don

Theatre: DON JUAN SPECTRUM CENTRE INVERNESS

FOR THEIR debut production, Theatre Highland have commissioned a version of Mol-iere's uneasy comedy by the novelist, Carl MacDougall, whose reworking follows hard on the heels of Ian Heggie's effort earlier this year for Edinburgh's Theatre Babel Company.

Theatre Highland have struck the better bargain, the easy flow of MacDougall's dialogue - geographically transposed to the Highlands of the 1640s and subtly updated - in stark contrast to Heggie's over-crafted neologising. MacDougall foregrounds Moliere's concern with the moral and religious context surrounding the Don's philandering, rather than these lewder elements in themselves, lining up his hubristic amoral sensualism against the characters who importune him to repent his ways.

From the Don's defiant declaration that "I have it in me to love the whole world", to his wily observation that "all the hypocrite needs to see them through is a touch of humility", the play's events highlight the many shades of grey between the supposed opposites of licentiousness and piety. Mediated by the uncomfortably - though often comically - fence- sitting Murochy, Don Juan's much-put-upon servant, these issues are opened up to encompass wider dualities - freedom and law, flesh and spirit, expediency and principle.

The period background of the Covenanting era - artfully reflected in Andy Thorburn's original live score, which draws on Scottish music and instrumentation of the time - adds weight to MacDougall's treatment without any strain of contrivance. His efforts, though, to intertwine heavenly punishment with a Gaelic clan vendetta, a conflation further muddied by its embodiment in a pair of Celtic spirit-figures as the avenging ministers, are needlessly distracting.

Vincent Friell as the Don commands the stage with all the voluptuous arrogance one could wish for, his languidly larger-than-life rhetoric enlivened by a distinct Sean Connery drawl. While carrying off the grandstanding inherent in the part, however, Friell doesn't overlook the subtleties, bringing out the underlying enigma of the Don's behaviour through hints at deeper motivations: a glimpse of wounded, jealous vulnerability here, a flash of the authentically demonic there. Malcolm Freeman gives a mercurially complementing performance in the twin-anchor role of Murachy, his opportunistic dodgings and diversions between attempts to save his employer's soul and his own self-serving pragmatism, providing both a generous vein of sharply fashioned humour, and a microcosmic precis of the key arguments.

The rest of the cast have far less rewarding work to do - though plenty of it, with 14 characters to play between them. The subsidiary parts are emphatically that, but the cast deliver a succession of carefully fashioned cameos to round out an engrossingly multi-dimensional, tightly constructed production, and a debut that bodes brightly for the company's future.

Tours the Highlands and Islands until 8 July

SUE WILSON

Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week