Faustus, Hampstead Theatre, London
Thursday 02 November 2006
This fresh angle on the Faust story is devilishly suggestive. Director Rupert Goold and dramaturg Ben Power have joined forces on a version that first interlaces, and then lets leak into one another, episodes from Marlowe's powerful Renaissance take on drama's greatest over-reacher and newly written scenes involving the Brit artists Jake and Dinos Chapman.
The latter are followed in the run-up to their notorious desecration of a rare set of etchings of Goya's Disasters of War. The man who sold his soul to the devil eventually shares a stage with the men who concocted the artwork Hell. One of the most piquant sights in London theatre is the time-slip spectacle of Marlowe's hero encountering the Seven Deadly Sins at a modern media orgy after the 2003 Turner Prize.
The concept of the piece has been criticised in some quarters for failing to establish a precise equivalence between the project and predicament of Marlowe's Faustus (played with a mesmerising hushed intensity by Scott Handy) and the philosophy and somewhat less extreme fate of the Chapman Brothers (whose scruffy, smart-arse manner and shrugging missionary purpose are expertly conveyed by Jonjo O'Neill and Stephen Noonan).
But to my mind, the asymmetries are the point of a stage-work that finds both weird resemblances and disconcerting contrasts. The humanist Faustus breaks the ultimate taboo and descends into triviality. The anti-humanist Chapman brothers commit sacrilege by superimposing clown and puppy heads on the Disasters of War and it is left moot whether this gesture is, as they claim, an effort to restore the impact of Goya's etchings for a jaded public or rich-boy sensationalism.
Only the female Afghan photographer, who equates what they are doing to the destruction of the Buddhist statues in her country by the Taliban, feels too forced and clunking a character.
The piece was first seen in Northampton in 2004. It's a pity this London revival has fetched up at the Hampstead Theatre, a venue that seems to drain energy from most productions. Given a more appropriate showcase - at the Almeida, say - this Faustus would not lose an atom of its provocative power and would achieve the profile it deserves.
To 18 November (020-7722 9301)
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove