Review of Doctor Faustus at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Doctor FaustusMarlowe’s Dr Faustus is a legendary tale of the price of greed and ambition, as the title character makes a pact with the devil for 24 years of unlimited power and glory in exchange for the damnation of his immortal soul. It is a battle between virtue and sin, faith and despair, and is a definitive insight into the darkness of the human condition as we watch a man self-destruct in the pursuit of glory. Jamie Lloyd’s mash up of Marlowe’s play with Colin Teevan’s adaptation seamlessly draws this plight into the modern world and shows how Marlowe’s text is more relevant than ever. Marlowe’s Wittenberg scholar, desperate for knowledge is turned into a self obsessed wannabe, glued to his Apple computer, who trades his soul, less for the power and glory that Marlowe’s Faustus craved, but for fame and a vacuous lifestyle. By the end of the play, when Faustus’ 24 years of glory culminate in the devil taking his payment, we are left not wondering, but certain, that it was not worth the sacrifice.

This is not a criticism, rather it is indicative of our modern age that the things which are so craved become hollow and shallow; as Faustus offers a glimmering ray of hope in a brief moment of topical satire, forcing corrupt tax dodgers to give their money to charity, these same political and religious leaders, bankers and media representatives, are exposed for the contracts they too have made with Lucifer, and the audience is left with a crushing realisation of modern culture. This moment of goodness is short lived, and as Faustus’ soul gets darker, the clothes peel off, until he is one of the soiled underwear clad, zombie-like fallen angels that pervade the set.

Whilst no one is complaining about a scantily clad Kit Harrington, this marked the moment where the play descended into a something of a pit of gratuitous sex and violence which, though demonstrating the point of no return for Faustus, felt like a possible step too far as Faustus’ despair turned him suddenly into a murdering rapist having previously only wanted to be in a famous band.

Overuse of air guitar aside, Harrington’s performance was exceptional. No stranger to the London stage he presented a truly tortured Faustus, caught up in a hedonistic lifestyle run by Jenna Russell’s beautifully manipulative (and occasionally singing) Mephistopheles, and whilst Jade Anouka’s charming characterisation of Wagner occasionally drew possibilities of redemption, Harrington’s Faustus had no desire to change. From the beginning he is surrounded by demons, and in a world where consequences are put off until tomorrow the play offers a fascinating insight into how easy it is to Fall in the modern world, leaving you wondering the price of your own soul.

Be prepared for dribbling, blood, violence, foaming at the mouth, deafening music, and ‘scenes of a sexual nature’, but make sure you see Dr Faustus. Following his productions of Macbeth in 2013, and Richard III in 2014, Lloyd presents yet another highly untraditional demonstration of the importance of pushing the boundaries of theatre, and of re-establishing the canon for the modern day.

4 Stars

Review by Breeze Barrington

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.

Duke of York’s Theatre
45 St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG
Booking Until: 25th Jun 2016
Important Information: Contains themes of an adult nature, scenes of sexual violence and nudity.