Review: Doctor Faustus

Games of Thrones star Kit Harington turns to the devil in latest West End play at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre.

Faustus makes a pact with the Devil, selling his soul in return for the ability to perform anything he pleases with the power of black magic. He later faces his insatiable thirst for wealth and fame. But at what cost?

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus [of Using Colin Teevan’s adaptation] displays the ever-growing charm of Jamie Lloyd’s work. And none more so that the brave direction of its leading actors.

Smart choices leave audiences almost crying for more as Kit Harington leads this show from start to end. Never off stage, his growing presence and fine delivery gives a small heart to a piece of bloody mess. At times, quite literally. Noticeably in fine shape, he’s anything but afraid to flaunt what he has or get invovled with his cast. For some, the difficult, harrowing and sexual happening in this show could have been declined, yet Harrington does it with ease; a credit to his dedication to the role.

Jenna Russell as Mephistopheles features opposite Harington; her performance an enjoyable counterpart with breaks of humour throughout. With the inclusion of an interval song, Russell adds worth to a piece that would be somewhat on the difficult side of evil without her inclusion. To say such a piece is a tough watch falls short of the bloody, evil stirring of Doctor Faustus. Its seems to shock here is to please.

However, there’s a fault with this piece that you’re sadly unable to forget. Reams of dialogue add little or no value from the opening moments, resulting in many somewhat perplexed from the start. However, small movement towards the latter of the first act leaves you able to take grasp of this story until as the interval comes. And when it does, there’s a moment of enjoyable relief.

Doctor Faustus isn’t a a bad play, but its placement of lengthy text puts audiences into the middle of dialogue that isn’t needed. Add in the elements of severe torture, torment, rape and blood, and the mind is somewhat baffled — but for what reason? Yes, reams of blood can shock audiences, and television stars can bring a fresh and youthful approach — but this Doctor isn’t one quite ready to treat their first patient just yet.

Soutra Gilmour’s design is worthy of large praise. Reguarly changing, its work alongside Jon Clark’s lighting and Ben and Max Ringham’s sound can’t be faulted throughout.

The Jamie Lloyd Company are, as is now expected, pushing the boundaries once again. Truly shocking, heavy and bold till close, Doctor Faustus is a bizarre evening at the theatre. With moments of enjoyable depth from Kit Harington, his rather impressive physique, and his delivery of life on the darker side of life, is a needed anchor. Polly Bennett’s dark movement direction adds impact that reiterates this frankly disgusting world of evil you come to almost enjoy by curtain call.

Harington’s casting is a win. The play for an evening at the theatre? Kinda. Doctor Faustus isn’t an enjoyable piece — but is that not the point of its creation?

GT gives Doctor Faustus — 3/5

Please note: Doctor Faustus contains themes of an adult nature, scenes of sexual violence and nudity.

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