Molière’s Dom Juan pays a visit to Glendon

It began with a mysterious walk through a tunnel-like entrance leading to a castle. That’s how members of the audience arrived at Dom Juan’s castle, led in by his many love interests; each claiming Juan loves her and her alone. It was all part of Theatre Glendon’s latest production of Dom Juan in March.

Dom Juan or The Feast with the Statue (Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre), by M. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin a.k.a. Molière, was based on the Spanish legend of the godless libertine Don Juan, but set in France with a revised name that was satirical in the French context. It was the final part in Molière’s hypocrisy trilogy, which includes The School for Wives and Tartuffe. Hotly criticized by Molière’s contemporaries as offensive to both the church and the King, Dom Juan was withdrawn after only a few performances.

The piece was eventually reworked from prose to verse into a toned-down version and revived after the author’s death. The original prose, which is the version staged at Glendon, has only been staged since the late 19th century.

Glendon’s production of Dom Juan was a class production, designed for Glendon Drama Studies 2615, and, as a result, many of the male roles were ably portrayed by women. The director, Guillaume Bernardi, also found a clever way to provide a part for every individual in the class, with some of the more minor roles doubling up. As for the actors, it was clear that they invested an enormous amount of work and concentration in executing the production.

Bernardi, a professor of drama studies at Glendon, is a highly successful and much-honoured artistic director in the theatre world.

Right: Guillaume Bernardi

"During one of the first meetings of the course…last September, I announced to the students that our production would be a…Molière play in either one or three acts," said Bernardi in the program notes. "That seemed to me to be ambitious enough. And here we are, six months later in front of you, the spectators, with a play in five acts and with the reputation of being one of Molière’s most difficult."

Through Bernardi’s vision and encouragement, this immensely enthusiastic, largely anglophone, group of students brought the Dom Juan legend to life once more in clear French and an occasional, well-placed regional accent. Sword play and comic moments kept the production moving along at a quick pace. In the end, the unrepentant libertine was dragged to hell by the stone statue of the commandant who came to dinner.

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny