Duke of York’s Theatre, London
Saturday 23rd April, 14.30
Having had a previous glimpse into the directorial mind of Jamie Lloyd and having been informed during rehearsal period that this version would be yielding a “few surprises” we kept an open mind prior to seeing this version. Quite how different it would prove to be; I don’t think we were totally prepared for!
This is a production that hits you from the moment you arrive; the red themed lobby, the inspired music choices and the cast members on stage as the audience settle themselves down.
And so with a flickering of lights we entered the world of Lloyd’s Faustus. A confusing dark world inhabited by demons and spirits where violence, nudity, superficiality and bodily fluids take over. The movement of characters through the set complements the original language of Marlowe and I particularly found myself gripped by the portrayal of the seven deadly sins by Tom Edden. Faustus played, as the entire world must now know, by Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, I felt to be somewhat down playing the language of Marlowe. Subsequently had the effect of making even the original text more ‘every day’ rather that decried in the way that, for example, Shakespeare often is. Perhaps that was the point all along; yet another modernising device? I am unsure but my feeling is that Mr Harington will undoubtedly settle even more into the meter of the language.
But what of the modern Colin Teevan reworking that has been dropped in to replace the whole horse section of the original text? A bold move and one that has divided opinions including those in our family. Personally I loved it; taking from it the fact that it is a huge device to satire the modern age of celebrity culture and the path which people have already gone down. The selling our souls to a media frenzy, bankers, celebrity and fast paced lifestyle with no clear way to redeem ourselves. The only issue I really had with it was that the language was not inventive enough. Simply using explicit profanities against the church does not prove to be as clever as the original language where Faustus mocks the Catholic church.
No Cooper trip to the theatre ever takes place without a decent debate and we are still talking about the rewrite. The husband was not a fan of the writing; the original play being his favourite dramatic workand the 14 year old also was not sold on it. Hermione is developing her own, often strong, opinions and found herself unhappy with the new writing much preferring the original sections. This in itself is interesting from a theatre goer of the next generation who on the surface one would expect to prefer the newer work. (What can I say; she’s a little different, my daughter and she’s clearly her father’s child!)
Jenna Russell we all felt played a unique Mephistopheles, manipulative, sexy and with a fantastic voice. The music throughout this production is a bold and captivating move and in fact the whole soundscape adds depth which is rarely used to such effecting your traditional plays. The set is another Soutra Gilmour triumph and we all found the fact that you can see through to the back of the theatre to be very clever. It is indeed a set and production that clearly indicates our demons and indeed our own hellish nightmares are all around us.
The production finishes in a a return to the Marlowe text, a level of violence that I feel may at this point have been unnecessary and slightly less blood than I had braced myself for. The demise of Faustus is not a spectacular fall from grace by this point as everyone knew that it was coming but I’m also not sure by this point if we were meant to care that the end was nigh for him.
This new production is clearly designed to provoke, shock, entertain ( depending on your sensibilities) and draw in a younger audience. It’s an acquired taste; an intense spectacle that is more Pulp Fiction and punk culture than some might feel comfortable with but how clever to take something first performed in 1592 and fling it into our broken modern age.