Jamie Lloyd’s latest production reinvents Christopher Marlowe’s classic play for a more modern audience in a typically sinister, bold and inventive way.
When Doctor Faustus (Kit Harington) makes a deal with the devil that he gives his soul in return for the use of powerful black magic – little does he realise the consequences of this deal, as his life slowly spirals out of his control.
Set in a modern, celebrity obsessed society this production is mixture of Marlowe’s work and new additional scenes written by Colin Teevan for a section of Lloyd’s production – which blends perfectly well with Marlowe’s original ideas.
Everything has been carefully thought out from the fantastic soundtrack as you enter the auditorium such as ‘ (You’re) The Devil in Disguise’ and ‘Highway to Hell’, all the way through to the powerful performances from Kit Harington and Jenna Russell.
But it has to be said it takes some time for the production to settle down and become coherent. The opening fifteen minutes feels a bit crowded with cast, with not many of them doing an awful lot for no purpose. Throughout there are flashes of moments like this that don’t quite make sense and unnecessary to the understanding of the story, suggesting that Lloyd perhaps has taken the idea of being experimental slightly too far.
Which is a shame because the production is at its strongest when it focuses on the strong chemistry between Harington as Faustus and Russell as Mephistopheles – both providing mesmerising performances.
The Game of Thrones actor perfectly portrays the inner turmoil that Faustus feels as he begins to realise the extent of his actions and the impact that the decision to dabble with black magic has had on him and those around him. The way he performs the famous ‘Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships?’ speech is almost painful to watch, yet mesmerising that you can’t look away.
Meanwhile, Jenna Russell’s performance as Mephistopheles more than proves how versatile she is an actress with an absolutely chilling and calculating, cruel role here. But she still manages to bring her trademark sense of humour – particularly at the beginning of act two with a sing along and interaction with the audience is particularly memorable. Also look out for great support in the form of Tom Eden (Good Angel) and Jade Anouka (Wagner).
Once again, Jamie Lloyd shows exactly how to get to the heart of a story and interpret it for a modern and young audience in a way that is gripping and chilling to watch from beginning to end. the canned laughter of an audience, the television voiceovers wonderfully created by Ben and Max Ringham perfectly capture the idea of sensationalism and obsession with celebrity that modern society has.
Ironically, after the show there was a crowd of people standing near stage door waiting for Kit Harington to come out. Proving once again the message of this production: we are all obsessed with celebrities, vanity and proving to the everyone else what we have got that no one else has.
While there is no doubting the intent of the production, but there is just an underlying feeling that it could have been executed better. But it is worth a visit if you can for the stunning performances and the sharp and straight to the point message of the production.
Doctor Faustus is booking at the Duke of York’s Theatre until the 25th June. To book tickets visit: ATG Tickets, Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Last Minute.com, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.