Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Jonathan Price: Don Juan

By | Published on Friday 12 July 2019

Eagle eyed readers, and those prepared to do everything we tell them, may remember that in the most recent set of Three To See recommendations we encouraged you to go and see ‘Don Juan’ at The Other Palace, a show which won critical claim at the old edfringe last year.

We’ve got a lot of faith in this hugely energetic and party-like piece and its New Zealand based creators A Slightly Isolated Dog. So I thought I would again encourage you to see the show, by talking to cast member Jonathan Price to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling us about the content of the show…? Where does the narrative take us…?
JP: We tell the story Don Juan’s escapades, seducing women (and men), fighting off hordes of bandits, and ultimately receiving his divine judgement. And then there’s the storytellers themselves, a troupe of French misfits who flirt with the audience, fall in love with them, settle old grievances and enlist them to tell the story too. The show feels like a party that also happens to tell a story.

CM: What themes does the show explore?
JP: We made the show with big questions in mind about our own lives. How do we live boldly despite our anxieties, fears, and crippling politeness? What would it take to actually live our deepest desires? Would it make us a superhero or an asshole? And because we were working with the stories of Don Juan, the world’s greatest lover and seducer, we dug into our own personal romances, which proved to be an embarrassment of riches. So we celebrate unrequited love, spontaneous acts of lust (which may or may not involve a nun), emotional torment and all aspects of our (and everybody’s) wonderful and slightly screwed-up love-lives.

CM: What kind of music can we expect to hear in the show?
JP: Some serious bangers. You will have heard them before, and you may want to sing along. Our criteria for song selection was something like: What do you sing in the shower when you think no one’s listening? What songs make you feel ridiculously badass?

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the character you play?
JP: I play Philippe, who is one fifth of the seriously impassioned French theatre troupe who want to tell the world the story of Don Juan. Poor Philippe is held captive by his passions; he falls in love with startling regularity, each time falling harder than the time before. He’s a puppy desperately chasing a ball, but can’t help tripping over his big feet.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the rest of the cast?
JP: Well there’s Julie, who may be the first you see towering in six-inch stilettos. She’ll fix you with an irresistible come-hither look and make you feel right at home. There’s fiery Lily, blasting lead vocals and playing the only person to ever resist the charms of Don Juan. There’s Bastien, a magnificent hand-to-hand combatant and terrible pervert. And Ginger, an outrageous flirt plagued by the demons of past relationships

CM: How did you go about putting the show together? What was your creative process?
JP: We had a few starting points. There was Moliere’s original play of Don Juan’s adventures. We knew we wanted to use French accents – our way into bigger, sillier and sexier personas than our awkward Kiwi selves. And we had the urge to give our local theatre-going community a bit of a jolt, shake them awake. We wanted to create a show that was like a party, where the audience were as involved as the actors. We knew that meant audience interaction, so then we had to figure out how to do that it a way that didn’t feel gross, that actually felt genuinely fun for all of us. With one eye on those guiding stars, we set about improvising, often for hours on end. We made ten shows’ worth of material and then cut things ruthlessly. We kept adding and changing right up to opening night and beyond. Things have settled now, though we’re always in a state of development. It stops us getting complacent.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about A Slightly Isolated Dog…? How was the company formed and how did it get that name?
JP: Our Director, Leo Gene Peters, formed the company while completing his Masters at the NZ drama school. In a way the cast of ‘Don Juan’ are the newest shoots of a pretty big family tree, as the company has done a number of varied projects over the last decade. In all the work there is a deep desire to connect with people at a human level, to work with and be a part of the immediate community, to bring people into the present moment and actually see each other.

I believe the name was the product of an elongated drinking session. It has a profound and poetic symbolism the exact meaning of which, alas, has been lost in the mists of time.

CM: What aims or ambitions does the company have for the future?
JP: During this tour we are beginning work on a new show, a third instalment for our “French” troupe repertoire. Next year we plan to tour Australia. At some point we’d love to return to some of the darker, more spacious and mysterious work of the company’s earlier days. Detective mysteries, harbour cities, neuropsychology, loneliness, longing, smart-phones and pigeons are recurring sources of fascination for us.

CM: What’s next for this show after the upcoming London run?
JP: That’s it for ‘Don Juan’ for a while! We then head to Edinburgh Festival Fringe to spend a month performing Don Juan’s sibling show, ‘Jekyll & Hyde’. The spirit is the same – a wild celebration of our strange lives – but with ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ we pay special attention to the impish side of human nature … you know, that little voice in your head that says “kick the puppy.” Or is that just me?

CM: What’s coming up next for you? Anything new in the pipeline?
JP: A holiday! My partner is meeting me in Edinburgh and we’re going to travel through Greece and Turkey for three weeks. Europe is a long way away from New Zealand, got to make the most of it while we’re here. I’m gently incubating a couple of projects back at home, but they feel a million miles away at the moment.

‘Don Juan’ is on at The Other Palace Studio from 15-20 Jul, see this link here to book tickets. The show is also on at Greenwich Theatre for one night only, 24 Jul, info and tickets here.

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