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By Christopher Marlowe Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4BG 0844 871 7627 Reviewed by Jarlath O’Connell


here are lines at the stage door heralding the arrival of a Star. It is

Kit Harington from Game of Thrones. Not bad going for a young actor who isn’t actually a movie star, yet. The vehicle for this hysteria is pro-

vided by wunderkind director, Jamie Lloyd. With his own company (a joint venture with ATG) in residency at the Trafalgar Studios, he has produced a string of artistic and commercial hits (The Maids, The Ruling Class, Richard III, The Pride, The Hothouse and Mac- beth) which have demonstrated an impresario’s knack for matching the latest hot talent to the right play. All have struck a chord with a younger audience demographic. Here again the crowd is young and trendy, more Shoreditch than Shaftesbury Ave. The hitch this time is the choice of play. Marlowe’s 1592 play is not done

very often, for good reason. While most are familiar with the concept of a Faustian Pact, for this play to work nowadays you do need to under- stand what fear of “Satan and all his empty promises” might feel like. Exploring themes such as the dan- gers of necromancy or ‘predestina- tion’ are a tall order in our cynical age. Faustus (Harington) makes a pact

with Lucifer (Forbes Masson), selling his soul in return for the ability to perform anything he pleases with the power of black magic. This fatal

58 The American

decision catapults him into an intoxi- cating world of celebrity in this con- temporary translation. He becomes a world renowned conjuror, with a resi- dency in Vegas (think David Blaine) and an international heartthrob with Bono-like access to everyone who matters. It’s an interesting interpreta- tion but four hundred years ago sell- ing your soul was a much bigger deal than, say, signing your career away to a record company today. With the former you burned in hell for eter- nity; with the latter there is always I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. References from film, pop, and tv

illuminate Lloyd’s texts in a vibrantly direct way. As here, he often mics his actors giving flight to the imagina- tion of his sound designers. Fans of Game of Thrones won’t be

disappointed. There’s stabbing, goug- ing, molesting, raping, waterboard- ing, drug taking, polymorphous per- versity and of course nudity, usually for no apparent reason. Unlike Game, it has a merciful lightness of touch however. Soutra Gilmour’s designs are, as usual, brilliant. The aesthetic is Breaking Bad crossed with Thea- tre of Cruelty - a grimy bedsit where dangerous plots are conceived and potions concocted. Whole characters and the middle

acts of the play have been dropped in Colin Teevan’s pleasingly disrespect-

ful adaptation. He also peppers it with contemporary references, most of which ring true. This gives time to develop the theme of Faustus as con- jurer-rock star and to have some fun, with levitation and lots of air guitar. Supporting cast are top notch. Jenna Russell, unrecognisable in cropped hair and grunge clothes, is a female Mephistopheles, who literally has Faustus by the balls before long. Like a depressive soothsayer (“God’s creation is the biggest illusion”) she never ceases to remind him about what is in store when the 24 year compact with Satan runs out. Her musical theater talents aren’t wasted either as we get a hilarious ‘90s club karaoke at the interval. Then there is Tom Edden, who again commits grand larceny in a play, when he maniacally re-enacts all the Seven Deadly Sins, as a warning. All this visual and aural frenzy is a

delight but it leaves the play rather ravaged, the actors often running to stand still. Harington has to bridge the rather high classicism of the first act with a more ‘street’ style mid- dle section but in the end his star charisma and physical ease see him through, commendable considering his relative lack of stage experience. Fans of Lloyd will know what to

expect. Fans of Marlowe had better scuttle away with their texts. 

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