99.9 Degrees / Don Juan @ C ECA
Jackinabox , the young theatre troupe based in York, have written and adapted this piece especially for the Fringe. There is no doubting their energy and commitment, but 99.9 Degrees is at times a little uneven. Five hostages struggle to reconcile their differences in the face of mounting pressure, swapping life stories and trying to hold it together.
What is a good premise, punctuated with dance sequences and a plank symbolising lives in the balance, turns out like The Breakfast Club with the threat of certain death. Sarah Carys Palmer as Claire is very convincing, starting out idealistic then losing her mind, and Sam (John Askew) has a twitchy presence. Disparate flashbacks (an ex-wannabe rock star's heroin addiction, a stag party gone wrong, a bad romantic encounter) mean certain scenes work better than others, but for such a youthful team finding their feet, they have some great ideas and lines.The dancing is touching too.
With so-called 'erotic' novel Fifty Shades Of Grey still doing great business in the 'soft porn for the braying classes' brigade, it is perhaps timely that Jackinabox are also doing Don Juan (so to speak). Their adaptation of Moliere's famous swordsman morality tale does have indeed contain swordplay, in the non-euphemistic sense, but with a coy approach. Staged as a means of giving a voice to the women Don Juan cast aside, this polite romp reads like a feminist revenge tale, unmasking the social mores but still retaining a little cheekiness.
John Askew's performance in the lead role is fine, but he does seem too decent a chap to be a sexual predator. He is sent to Hell to be held to account for all the decadence, in particular seducing, marrying then abandoning Elvire (Hayley Thompson), who eschewed a religious calling to be by his side.
The Devil, urbanely played by Luke de Belder is excellent, all knowing eye-rolls and camp gestures. True to character, he steals the scenes. Don Juan may be the heartbreaker, but it seems the Devil has it. Suck on that, Christian Grey.