This modern, sexually charged version of Marlowe’s tragedy both shocks and entertains

Photos: Marc Brenner

Theatre review Doctor Faustus - credit Marc Brenner

It might be the UK premiere of Game of Thrones’ season six, but over at the Duke of York’s Theatre the audience has settled in to watch Kit Harington in a very different role to that of Jon Snow. And while the ‘Is he/isn’t he?’ death drama unfolds on the small screen, tonight Harington’s fate as Faustus is sealed from the off.

Theatre review Doctor Faustus - credit Marc Brenner

Those only here for Harington will find plenty to love – he’s frequently bare-chested, for a start – although this is certainly no vanity project. As Faustus, a man who enters into a deal with the devil in exchange for 24 years of fame and fortune, the troubled lead is doused in a shower of blood and subjected to nightmarish exchanges with Lucifer’s minions as he grapples with the life-altering decision he’s made.

This being a Jamie Lloyd production, this is no classic retelling of Christopher Marlowe’s 16th-century play. Instead, we’re greeted with a twisted, sexually explicit plot that mixes the original script at the start and the end of the play with an ultra-modern centrepiece (so modern, in fact, that it references the recent Panama Papers scandal) adapted by Colin Teevan. The result is dramatic, serving to highlight the transformation of Faustus from a nerdy, overly earnest loner living in a bedsit to a world-famous magician with superpowers. 

Theatre review Doctor Faustus - credit Marc Brenner

While Harington is undoubtedly the star of the show, his performance is bolstered by a supporting cast of hell-dwellers, who take it in turns to shock and thrill with visceral gore, full-frontal nudity and incongruous dance numbers. But it’s Jenna Russell as Mephistopheles, Lucifer’s agent and Faustus’s unlikely lover, who impresses most. Her dry observations are central to the macabre comedy at the centre of this perverse production.

Until 25 June
Hospitality Groups of up to 10 can hire the Ambassador Lounge. For £45pp, guests will gain entry 90 minutes before the performance and during the interval, half a bottle of champagne, chocolates, a programme and use of the cloakroom, plus band A seats for the show.

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Theatre review Doctor Faustus - credit Marc Brenner

Theatre review Doctor Faustus - credit Marc Brenner

Theatre review Doctor Faustus - credit Marc Brenner