Faustus Theatre Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Written and directed by Kate Danbury
Produced by I'll Be Right Back
Craig Hannah as Faustus
Serena Chloe Gardner as Wagner/Beelzebub
David Curtis as Mephistopheles
Kate Danbury as Lucifer/Ms Pope
James Hamer-Morton as Ben Volio
Maddi Pottinger as Robyn
‘Faustus’ is the debut production from I’ll Be Right Back company, and brought the London Horror Festival to a close on the 29th, 30th and 31st October at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.
Using a stage no bigger than the average living room, stark set designs and minimal props, this modern re-envisioning of Christopher Marlowe’s classic 17th century play, Doctor Faustus, is a fresh and chilling adaptation like no other.
As the old story goes, John Faustus is a frustrated, solitary man who sells his soul to the devil for 24 years of power, pleasure and knowledge.
In this version, John (played by Craig Hannah) is in a dead-end job working for a corrupt pharmaceutical company and living a miserable, unsatisfying existence. After researching dark magic, he summons a devil Mephistopheles (played by David Curtis) – Lucifer’s right hand man – to make a pact that’ll see his life rich with knowledge and happiness. Unfortunately for John, the repercussions of ‘having it all’ get the better of him, and no matter how much he repents, there’s no going back.
The contemporary setting – Faustus’ and his colleagues’ offices – works; it’s a familiar place with everyday people and everyday problems that audiences can relate to, making Faustus’ decision to change his course in life somewhat understandable. But while it depicts the original story’s themes in a confined, capitalist world poles apart from Marlowe’s 16th century Europe, the play’s history isn’t completely left and buried: Mephistopheles’ use of the Renaissance period’s language is a fitting contrast, and nicely harks back to the play’s origin.
Curtis revels in the menacing devil on Faustus’ shoulder that encourages his dark deeds and giggles as his inevitable downfall takes heed. And Hannah’s transformation is a markedly convincing one, full of passion that culminates in his explosive soliloquies, and attracting equal measures of sympathy and disgust.
It makes good use of space; despite one setting, we learn the extent of John’s disillusion with the world that far extends employment. The metaphoric unraveling of wallpaper as John gets closer to self-destruction is subtle yet atmospheric, too. But it’s the psychedelic scene in which we see Lucifer’s first exchange with Faustus that proves the most unnerving, as bright lighting, eerie gospel chants, terrifying imagery and synthesized voice-overs force the audience to the very centre of Faustus’ hellish nightmare.
Although a significantly compressed re-telling of the classic tale, Faustus nails the tragic story of greed, corruption and damnation with originality and enthusiasm.