Dr Faustus Review

Doctor Faustus review

Welcome thespians! Check out Andrew Venning’s DR Faustus review below!

Alas poor Marlowe. Christopher Marlowe made a profound impact on the English stage and on Shakespeare and had he lived longer would quite possibly have been even more influential. His Dr Faustus is one of his best known and most popular of his plays. Goethe later wrote Faust Part 1 and 2.

This version by Jamie Lloyd, like most of his productions, decides to attack the text pretty quickly and very aggressively. Madness abounds as people poor ketchup over themselves for unknown reasons and characters come on stage nude at one point and not at others. I got entirely lost when after the first scene where Faustus has sold his soul to the devil, the show implied that what we were watching was actually a comedy TV version of Marlowe’s ‘Dr Faustus’ and now we are in the “real” world with the actor “John Faustus”. We then hear lots of comment on celebrity and the vacuousness of society but sadly this really does not give us a look into the mind of this man and his thirst for knowledge and power. I actually initially failed to pick up on this conceit and while I think it is a nice idea it was not executed well. It was also ruined by its own hypocrisy use of celebrity in casting Kit Harrington as Dr Faustus.

“I felt a sense of relief as I stumbled out of the theatre and into the freedom and release of the busy, smoky and over-whelming London streets”

Harrington sounds the words wonderfully and obeys the structure of the lines of the text and breathes in the correct places. He at times sounds like he speaks a tad in the back of his mouth but otherwise he seems to be trying his best to show us into Faustus’ mind whilst people around him are fingered and spat on. I understand the devil is “disgusting” and get that you may want portray true disgust and abhorrence, but subtlety can be so much more chilling and powerful, this was just a cacophony of popular culture references and cheap laughs. When at one point Faustus takes his clothes off a woman audibly said “oh my god look at his back” clearly there are a lot of Game of Thrones fans in the audience.

There were giggles a lot throughout the play and also every second Mr Harrington did something that was only even slightly “sexual”.

Jamie Lloyd likes to chop up the text when he does the classics and that is fine when the truth of the story still comes through. I unexpectedly really enjoyed his version of The Homecoming at the Trafalgar Studios earlier this year where he modernised the show but still respected the text. But when he gets his hands on classical texts it feels as if he doesn’t trust the words or the intelligence level of his audience. This was neither a moving nor intellectually stimulating piece of theatre and I felt a sense of relief as I stumbled out of the theatre and into the freedom and release of the busy, smoky and over-whelming London streets.

Dr Faustus is on at the Duke of York Theatre

Andrew Venning Review by Andrew Venning