Phil wasn’t going to bother with Doctor Faustus. He will probably suffer eternal damnation from fans as he only made it through one series of Game of Thrones. So seeing Kit Harington fannying around in his underpants was of no consequence to him and the reviews were what can only kindly be described as “mixed”. But then the offer of a trip to see it came up and, like Faustus, gave in to temptation.
And as Jamie Lloyd‘s throw-in-the-kitchen-sink (then some) drama comes to the end of its run next week he wasn’t going to bother writing about it either. But after witnessing it, that was another temptation he couldn’t quite resist either.
Christopher Marlowe’s plot sees Faustus sell his soul to the devil. A bit like Aladdin really; a bit of singing of well known tunes, a bit of dancing in night attire, some finely-sculpted man cleavage, knives bandied about ad nauseam, people emerging through trap doors, some over the top makeup, impressive levitation and a story where the villain dupes the titular character who then gets his wildest wishes granted.
In this version by Colin Teevan the middle section’s been dropped apparently. Here he becomes an illusionist of rock star magnitude. That bit we could follow as we see Faustus watching David Copperfield on his tiny black and white TV. That’s about all we can tell you. Much of it was incomprehensible.
Where are we exactly? Soutra Gilmour‘s design places us in a housing estate flat probably. It might be a crummy motel room. Hard to tell. Either way you have to pity the neighbours – there’s an awful lot of shouting.
When you take your seat you’ll find Wagner (not the composer) already hoovering the stage and the hoodie-clad Faustus watching telly. He does a bit of air guitar. Soon the room is full of devils (angels?) dressed in cheap grubby underwear or nothing at all. One man wears a baby doll nightie. The naked ones lose the courage of their convictions and eventually discover undies somewhere. If they popped out to Marks it’s not a good advertisement.
Tom Edden (One Man, Two Guvnors) emerges from the bathroom with his mouth foaming with what we assume to be toothpaste. Dental hygiene in Hell? How bad can the place be? Later Phil’s long awaited food-on-stage thesis took a darker turn as Edden’s forced to eat excrement and smear himself with the rest of it. Waste material kindly supplied by Forbes Masson after we’ve seen him defecate and retrieve his deposit from the toilet. Really, we’re not making this up.
Jenna Russell turns up as a crop-haired, nightie-clad Mephistopheles. She eats a lot and looks like Ellen DeGeneres after a month of sleepless nights. She pops her hand down Kit’s trackie bottoms and grants him a hand job. During the interval (the best bit) Russell sits on the edge of the stage singing a bit of Kylie Minogue and “Bat Out of Hell” and engaging with punters. Her flattering remarks to us as we moseyed back from the bar probably increased the show’s rating here. If only her mini-concert had been the whole of Act 2.
When Wagner (Jade Anouka) finishes the domestic chores it turns out she’s got a crush on Faustus. When she looks at him we hear Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You”. And again. And again…
Faustus gets Wagner to lie on his kitchen table and performs an act of levitation, giving her (and the show) a lift. Quite impressive. Almost worth sitting through the second act for.
Stage knives are wielded willy-nilly cutting various bits of flesh throughout. Sloppy handling of the props enabled Phil to see exactly how they work for the first time. Small mercies and all that…
Faustus pulls down his pants, bares a bit of bottie, stabs and rapes Wagner then takes a shower in his undies which are re-dyed an impressively even red from the blood dripping down his body. His torso is remarkably ripped. Despite an energetic and intense performance Harington remains a blank canvas. Pity there isn’t a gym where he could pump up his personality.
A Mary Berry cook book becomes a plot point. No idea why. Perhaps a metaphor for the soggy bottoms on display here.
The lighting affords an opportunity for those in the front part of the stalls to admire the full extent of the Duke of York’s fly tower in Act 2. Bigger than you’d expect. It is preferable to watching the shenanigans on the stage.
Strangely Phil wasn’t entirely sorry he went. It was a curate’s egg of such epic proportions you could make a lifetime’s supply of omelettes from this one. If he’s made it sound worse than it actually was it is entirely intentional. The young audience appeared thoroughly engaged with no chatting or texting. Extraordinary.
At the curtain call Russell invited the audience to remain behind for a special event; a post-show 10 minute rap version of the whole play. Needless to say we were outta there.
Phil had never noticed this quote from Peter Pan and Wendy in the bar of the Duke of York’s (the theatre where the play was originally staged) before. Not sure if the juxtaposition of the two signs is trying to make a statement.