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Sleazy and sordid Doctor Faustus – Review

Doctor FausHow much would you sacrifice to get what you want? This is a question that many of us asked ourselves, and after watching Jamie Lloyd’s gut-roasting and eye-boiling production, you’ll never want to ask the devil for a favour, again. Game of Thrones’ heartthrob, Kit Harington (or Jon Snow as he is otherwise known as) is the lead, Doctor Faustus who sells his soul for illusionist and rock stardom in a revival of Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century tragedy.

While many Game of Thrones (GOT) fans will be impatiently waiting to see what’s in store for Harington’s character in the Emmy Award-winning HBO show, London’s West End audience will be on the edge of their seats as they see Harington, with chiseled abs, portray a helpless man dig away into the depths of hell.

Lloyd’s prolific, graphic and uninhibited stage ideas (including blood, faeces consumption and rape), combined with writer, Colin Teevan’s words, which wrestle with Marlowe’s original 16th century text, has a peculiar way of engaging. Though their language usage is clearly different, Teevan’s modern adaptation demonstrates the existence of immorality, injustice and soul-giving through politics, religion and popular culture – David Cameron, Barack Obama and Pope Francis get a real beating through zombie-like demons that haunt, taunt and feed off Faustus’ despair and anxiety.

Those who adore Harington as the leader of the Night’s Watch will not go home dissatisfied. With ample opportunity to see his bare buttocks, Harington actually proves himself to be a versatile and adaptable stage act. While noble Jon Snow sees him in one dimension, Faustus’ propensity for dark sorcery, battling with a moral conscience, provide a clearer picture of what Harington can really do, in quick succession!

Jenna Russell plays hardball as Mephistopheles, Satan’s minion and soul collector, and her performance adds extra sinister clout and toxicity to an auditorium already filled with filth, sweat, spit and fake blood. As Faustus’ sidekick to the band, touring the world from Milton Keyes to Las Vegas, her Mephistopheles preys on Faustus’ moral discomfort, and tears him apart from innocent Wagner (Jane Anouka). The second half opens with Russell sat on the side of the stage, breaking the fourth wall singing playfully to ‘Better the Devil You Know’ and ‘Like a Bat Out of Hell’, which an open-minded audience, (like myself!) will appreciate.

Forbes Masson‘s Lucifer enjoys spewing black bile from his mouth and eloquently constructing Marlowe’s writing as an unruly devil with flair. Yet Masson also demonstrates energy and vigour as one of the stuffy zombies that linger in the gruesome background.

The ensemble, which includes an incredible cast (Tom Edden, Brian Gilligan, Danielle Flett, Craig Stein, Gabby Wong, Garmon Rhys), are confident and physical. They take up much of the entire space of the stage, through Polly Bennett’s movement and choreography, unafraid of the provocative sight they may create: producing foamy saliva, full-frontal nudity and, at some points, veering on cheesy jazz hands to portray Faustus’ superficial magic show. Edden’s outstanding performance of seven deadly sins and Stein’s close-call interpretation of Obama shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Soutra Gilmour’s moving set design is drab and downtrodden as the misery of Doctor Faustus. Despite a tasteless scene of Faustus raping a Helen of Troy, which I consider being the lowest and sorest point of the show, the production is innovative, gross as well as engrossing. It’s sleazy and sordid – you’ve been warned.

4 stars

Review by Mary Nguyen

Praised for their innovative and anarchic reinvention of the classics, The Jamie Lloyd Company propels Christopher Marlowe’s legendary tale DOCTOR FAUSTUS into the here and now in an explosive and magical new production starring Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) in his long-awaited return to the London stage.

Faustus makes a pact with the Devil, selling his soul in return for the ability to perform absolutely anything he pleases with the power of black magic. This fatal decision catapults him into an intoxicating world of celebrity, as he becomes a world-renowned conjuror, international heartthrob and friend of the rich, famous and powerful. But what is the cost of his insatiable thirst for wealth and fame?

With blackly comic new scenes by Colin Teevan and dynamic stage illusions, the story of this 400-year-old play is transported to a celebrity-obsessed society of greed and instant gratification, offering a fresh, new perspective that chimes with our times.

Further Casting includes Olivier Award-winning Jenna Russell; Grey Gardens (Southwark Playhouse), Urinetown (St James Theatre & Apollo) Mr Burns (Almeida) as Mephistopheles, Jade Anouka; Henry IV (Donmar and St Anns Warehouse NYC) and winner of The Stage Award for Acting Excellence as Wagner and Forbes Masson; The Ruling Class, Richard III and Macbeth (part of The Jamie Lloyd Company) as Lucifer.

Doctor Faustus
Duke of York’s Theatre
45 St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG

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