Theatre | Dr Faustus

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Alice Rafter gives us her views on this innovative remaking of Marlowe’s 400 year old play.

3/5 Stars

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s new production of Dr Faustus gives a classic play a clever modern twist, with additional theatrical magic.  When a seemingly normal bed starts to move and a ‘demon’ arises from within it, when pearls appear from nowhere and a body swap takes place, then the possibilities of theatre are something to be marvelled at. However, there are also moments where the theatrical ‘magic’ isn’t quite as mesmerising.

The story of a man who sells his soul to Lucifer in exchange for power, fame and knowledge is given a clever and inventive modern spin, with a fantastic set of backstage dressing rooms, make-up tables and mirrors. Faustus becomes a world-famous conjurer, and the concept of having the rest of the cast watching the action from their dressing tables is excellent.

Pre-show adverts and releases anticipated something marvellously grand, magical and frightening.

The company as a whole perform brilliantly; particularly Faustus (Kevin Trainor) and Wagner, who is now a woman, played fantastically by Leah Brotherhead. With this change in casting, the possibility of romance between Faustus and Wagner is introduced, something which is incredibly touching and creates a far more personal and engaging aspect to the play. What is also a great innovation in this production is that the devil Mephistopheles takes the form of a woman, played by Siobhan Redmond. However, at times it seemed that more could have been done with this new development.

Unfortunately, though, perhaps my expectations were built too high before attending the production. Pre-show adverts and releases anticipated something marvellously grand, magical and frightening. There are some moments of humour, clever magical tricks, and some eerily unnerving moments, such as the inspired representation of the Seven Deadly Sins. However, I was expecting more than this. Nothing is particularly shocking, and I was left wanting more to frighten me, be it psychological or physical.

Despite this, the new modern sections written by Colin Teevan are truly engaging and put a new spin on the themes of the play, exploring the obsession with power and celebrity, and what may be sacrificed for this. These were really enjoyable new additions to the play, bringing both a dark humour and new emotional connections to the characters. In contrast, the opening scenes dragged somewhat. But, this is an innovative and well-made new creation, with a very clever twist and a lot of visual delights.

Alice Rafter

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