Review Round Up: Faustus: That Damned Woman, Lyric Hammersmith

Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for Chris Bush’s gender swapped take on Doctor Faustus.

(c)Manuel Harlan.

Time Out: *** “Bush’s attempt to ‘fix’ Faustus by having its heroine pursue the opposite path to Marlowe’s ultimately creates fresh problems of its own. But McNee is excellent and at barely two hours, this is the sort of breezy epic – full of big ideas, unpretentiously realised – that’s enjoyable enough to style out its silly bits.”

City Am: “The set-up is sound, then, but the execution is pretty hopeless. Modern-day parables are difficult to pull off (just look at the mess the National Theatre made with Saint George and the Dragon), and director Caroline Byrne’s production misses the mark by some distance. There’s something fawning about it, as if it’s forever winking at the audience to make sure we all get it.”

The Guardian: ** “The ideas behind Caroline Byrne’s production for the Lyric and Headlong are original and ambitious but don’t combine into a glorious whole. It is a shame because there is some fantastic revisionism here. As it is, the play ends up overreaching.”

The Stage: *** “Though the interplay between Mephistopheles and Faustus gets side-lined and the scenes in which Faustus enters the modern age, as a tech visionary who dreams of a digital afterlife, feel muddled and hurried, there’s an exhilarating quality to the way Bush stretches the source material, the way she breaks the play apart and rebuilds it.”

The Times: * “There are all sorts of possibilities in the confrontation between the forces of darkness and a female adventurer determined to make her mark in the world, but they go to waste in Chris Bush’s numbingly simple-minded play.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “It can be very hit and miss – as the centuries slip away so too does Bush’s dramatic footing – the gendered nuance of the first act traded for a more generic good versus evil twist by the time Faustus has been to the year 3000. There’s also a tantalisingly unexplored hint at more complex motivation for Mephistopheles’ affections, which floats idly by without a real conclusion.”

London ** “Despite a highly atmospheric production by Caroline Byrne, and lively performances by a seven-strong cast spiritedly led by Jodie McNee in the title role, I found myself mostly at a distance (and not just because I was seated in row M).  Partly its the Faust story itself: it’s not meant to be taken literally, of course, but with its time-travelling shifts of pace and place, it’s difficult to care what actually happens to her. But there’s also something muddled and muted in the storytelling here.  As much as I wanted to embrace it, its stridency kept pushing me away.”

Evening Standard: *** “the tone of Caroline Byrne’s production, for the Lyric and touring company Headlong, is monotonous. Though McNee is charismatic, her stridency becomes tiring. She and Wynter get all the interesting material; the other cast members feel largely like stooges. The set, by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita, of a ribbed, disintegrating dwelling, is unlovely.”

The Telegraph: **** “If, through the centuries, women have lacked “agency” – to use the sociological buzz-word – Faustus, you’d think, would be a magnet for feminist reworkings.”

A Younger Theatre: *** “While I enjoyed Bush’s play, two hours felt like a stretch. It’s logical but perhaps over extended, walking around points rather than fully making them. The conversation between the original material and the adapted version works well, but not all of its lines of thought are fully brought to conclusion.”

London Unattached: “Caroline Byrne’s admirable production of  Faustus: That Damned Woman is a fiercely strident tale of loss, truth, superstition, and judgment that is both provocative and disappointing. It lacks light and shade, the characters are short of nuance and the pace at times is slow. However Bush’s script is brave and Faustus as a woman brings new light to this age-old myth, it provides a good vehicle to explore a woman’s role in society which is forever loaded with preconceptions and expectations thereby continuing the debate of how we treat women who pursue greatness.”

Faustus: That Damned Woman will play at the Lyric Hammersmith until the 22nd February before embarking on a UK tour.

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