Faust, Lowland Hall, Ingliston, Edinburgh
Thursday 20 August 2009
This certainly has wow factor. One of the flagship shows of the Edinburgh International Festival, the Romanian director Silviu Purcarete's visually extravagant staging of Faust boasts a hundred-strong cast, two vast stages and imagery worthy of Hieronymus Bosch.
The production is already sold out, its scale is dizzying and I have no doubt it will get plenty of tributes. The spectacle Purcarete orchestrates is often surreal, malevolent fun, and there's always something going on, but you may find its orgiastic excess begins to pall.
The director first sets the action in a schoolroom with chalk-white walls, among drifts of crumpled newspaper. It's here that Faust (a leering, pasty-faced Ilie Gheorghe), disillusioned with learning after an experiment goes awry, makes his pact with Mephistopheles, a hermaphrodite played by the lithe Ofelia Popii. She throws herself into the role with sinister, Puckish glee, dipping her fingers into menstrual blood and smearing it over Faust's belly.
We're ushered over to an abattoir-like set for an insane St Walpurgis Night sequence, during which Faust fulfills his wildest desires. A conveyor belt of semi-clad devil's minions, amidst fireworks and flames, copulate with each other and with fibreglass pigs.
The director is a genuine talent with a flair for creating striking tableaux. Performed in Romanian with surtitles, his Faust is big, all right, but its opulence numbs you. Faust's abandonment of Margareta (hauntingly played by seven schoolgirls) barely registers. After a while, the pageant seems as frantic and empty as Faust's life. There's nothing under its surface.
To 22 August (0131-473 2000; www.eif.co.uk)
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