Don John, Courtyard, Stratford
Loot, Tricycle, London
Sunset Boulevard, Comedy, London

Emma Rice's disco reworking of the Don Juan story features chopper bikes, vodka and the raunchiest Don ever

Festoons of circus lights decorate the stage, and a towering fairground ride flashes on and off in the foggy background of Kneehigh's new version of the Don Juan myth – aka Don John. It seems apt that the wires, every so often, mysteriously fizz or shower sparks.

Director-adaptor Emma Rice's forte is passionate physicality, and I've never seen a more erotic Don than Gisli Orn Gardarsson when he has a fresh female wound around his torso. This guy is undeniably hot, especially as he gets acrobatically carnal with Patrycja Kujawska's nubile Zerlina. They spin, flip and lock on to each other like limpets.

Knocking back pills and vodka, with spiked-up hair and kohled eyes, Gardarsson is a sexaholic exuding a lupine hunger for the opposite sex. A satanic coldness is conveyed too as he silently saunters up behind his victims, eyeing the napes of their necks.

Meanwhile, irresistibly funny clowning is provided by Carl Grose. He plays Alan, Zerlina's sweet, tubby fiancé, who repeatedly electrocutes himself as he fiddles with the light sockets for their wedding-party decorations, juddering off his ladder to body-pop, in ludicrous spasms, on the dance floor.

The choreography is great. Vicki Mortimer's set has a bewitching rough beauty, with cargo containers opening up as a series of glowing bedrooms, and all the mid-1970s references in Rice's update – from Chopper bikes to Dr Hook – add retro appeal.

Yet the precise setting – Britain in the strike-riven Winter of Discontent – proves spurious. It's not thought through at all. The Don overdosing, as a substitute for hellfire, has been done before and the dialogue, by Anna Maria Murphy, is mawkishly jejune: most embarrassing for an RSC co-production. Really, Rice needs to ditch some of her unevenly talented team. In fact, Gardarsson himself – though thrillingly athletic – is lame when it comes to the spoken word.

What the hell, though, Rice's long-standing composer Stu Barker remains brilliant. His songs, fearlessly interwoven with snatches of Mozart's Don Giovanni, fuse sizzling electric guitar and gypsy ululations. The curtain call, where the cast humorously dart into the audience to find new disco partners, leaves everyone on a high.

Maybe old Mr McLeavy, the Catholic layman in Loot, still believes in fire and brimstone, or in maintaining a smidgeon of Christian decency. The walls of his terrace house are adorned with kitsch icons in Sean Holmes' production of this satirical 1960s farce by Joe Orton.

The late Mrs McCleavy is lying in her open casket, stiff with propriety, but Doon Mackichan's Fay, the departed's nurse, doesn't give a damn. Fay is a femme fatale, oscillating between hypocritical pieties and brazen come-ons. The knees of James Hayes' McLeavy appear to be permanently buckling under the strain. Worse, his cad of a son – Matt Di Angelo's Hal, in winklepickers – is soon bundling his mother's corpse into a cupboard so that he and his buddy, Dennis, can line the coffin with stolen lucre.

Alas, none of that makes Orton seem either funny or disturbing. Di Angelo (from Strictly Come Dancing) is bland celebrity casting, with no edge. David Haig is a blast, nonetheless, as the preposterous undercover detective, Truscott. Snuffling around like a demented bloodhound – his palms permanently clasped behind his back, as if he has handcuffed himself – Haig provokes eruptions of laughter, and a sharp intake of breath when his police brutality, literally, kicks in.

In Sunset Boulevard, the skint Hollywood wannabe, Ben Goddard's Joe, ultimately pays for becoming the calculating toy boy of the bonkers ex-movie star, Kathryn Evans' Norma Desmond. Her lavish mansion looks puzzlingly like a junk-metal scrapheap in this low-budget production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical. Maybe the cast is trying to compensate by overacting wildly at the climax when not only Norma is insanely histrionic. Still, Craig Revel Horwood's multitalented cast (transferring from Newbury's Watermill Theatre) are pleasingly resourceful in doubling as their own orchestra. Goddard's pent-up Joe flicks through a film script with one hand, while playing the flute with the other, and a cigar-puffing mogul gives him the verbal brush-off while plucking dismissively at a double bass. Fairly enjoyable.

'Don John' (0844 800 1110), touring to 28 March; 'Loot' (020-7328 1000) to 31 Jan, then at Newcastle Theatre Royal (0844 811 2121) 2 to 7 Feb; 'Sunset Boulevard' (0870 060 6637) to 19 April

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?