Doctor Faustus, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

4.00

 

It takes a certain bravery to tinker with one of the great plays of the classical canon – let alone rip out two entire acts and replace them with brand spanking new material. True scholars have long debated how much of the established Doctor Faustus was written by Christopher Marlowe, not to mention the quality of what has been passed down through the years.

But one certain thing about writer Colin Teevan’s bold editions is that they bring the play bang up to date whilst remaining true to the wit and power of the original script and the richness of the language. This collaboration between West Yorkshire Playhouse and Glasgow’s Citizen’s Theatre is an exciting and daringly realised production which is a thing of beauty to watch.

Played in modern day dress it begins with the young Faustus, a geeky bespectacled young fellow, who embarks on a voyage of discovery in which he seeks to answer the age old question of exactly why it is that the devil has all the best music.

The results of course, are catastrophic for the inquiring young doctor played by Kevin Trainor as he is led by the hand and various other appendages into the bowels of a chaotic hell by Siobhan Redmond’s statuesque Mephistopheles.

Marlowe’s life was as extraordinary as his work. Playwright, free-thinker, spy, atheist and homosexual – all these themes are explored in this play first published in 1604 at a time when the religious world was in turmoil. Little seems to have changed in the meantime and the Catholic Church’s present travails provide an open goal for Teevan in his two additional acts and he delights in scoring.

The new sequences see Faustus elevated to celebrity in an X-Factor style transformation. Much of the action is set backstage as his career arc as a Vegas strip illusionist in the David Copperfield mould rises and falls towards the inevitable final encounter with the grim reaper. This provides the best moments of the play especially the scene in which he entertains old rocker Saxon Bruno and at the end as his celebrity begins to wane.

Some might feel jolted by the contrast between the classical and the modern and the hand break turns in which the action switches between the old and new. But such reservations aside this offers an encouraging vision for the future of the theatre under new artistic director James Brining.

West Yorkshire Playhouse to 16 March and then Citizens Theatre, Glasgow 5-27 April

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea