Doctor Faustus, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
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
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
- 5 Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing gay-rights campaign snubbed by Prince William and Kate Middleton
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign