Don Juan Comes Back From the War - Odon Von Horvath. Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Nov 2007

Don Juan (Tom Burke) is a lost wandering soul in a desolate Berlin wasteland in the aftermath of the First World War.

He was an infamous libertine before the war, with a seductive tongue, surrounded by women, and fleeing from angry husbands! He doesn't try to be sexually attractive, it just happens, women can't help but fall under his spell. He lived through the ravages of war, but now he is suffering with a weak heart, a survivor of the Spanish flu epidemic throughout the country, and still attracting the attentions of many women.

After an opening scene of drunken debauchery, Don Juan suffers a heat attack, and the second scene sees our hero recuperating in hospital. Whilst two nurses discuss his infamous history, a woman sneaks into his cubicle and stabs him. Whilst the wound is not a mortal strike, it allows Don Juan to become reflective, to realise that he is now old, mortal, not the young buck he was before the war. He had been hospitalised once before, when a jealous husband attacked him. As he reflects that his hospital room had been filled with flowers, a riot of colour everywhere, showing how much he was loved, he now has nothing. No visitors with flowers, just visitors with knives!

He is a man desperately seeking atonement, searching for the fiancée that he jilted before the war started. He returns to a house looking for the person who stabbed him. He is soaking wet and exhausted when he visits, the woman who opens the door is full of angst. She sees him as a Devil, handsome, charming, he can make a woman become stupid, leaving her heart in pieces! He begs for her to bring death to him, but it isn't the same woman he is seeking, and whilst she immediately recognises him, he has no idea whose house he is in. Hers is just a face of many.

He flees a false allegation that he has raped a teenager, into the snow covered wasteland where his fiancée lived, only to find his quest has been futile. He then encounters some prostitutes who make him reflective. They treat him how men have treated women and suddenly now the roles are reversed the infamous lover is no longer willing to be party to such games. In a final act of contrition, he ensconces himself in the deep snow to consider all the women he has had in the past, and finally he is aware of where his heart really lies.

It is a mature piece of writing, which could make you wish to hate Don Juan and his philandering, but whilst you are angered at his irreverent treatment of women, you can't but help to find that you have developed an empathy toward the character by the end of the play.