26 May 2017 | 21.8 °C

Review: Kit Harington Is Bloody Great In A Grotesquely Entertaining Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus, Duke of York Theatre ★★★★☆

Kyra Hanson
By Kyra Hanson Last edited 13 months ago
Review: Kit Harington Is Bloody Great In A Grotesquely Entertaining Doctor Faustus Doctor Faustus, Duke of York Theatre 4
Forbes Masson, Kit Harington and Jenna Russell in Doctor Faustus. Photo: Marc Brenner

Blood, shit, vomit and violence all feature prominently in this gritty 21st century revival of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, in which the doomed eponymous lead — played by Game of Thrones heartthrob Kit Harington — sells his soul in exchange for magical powers.

Said powers — which involve levitation, plus a hefty dousing of smoke machine fog — bring Faustus fame, fortune and friends in high places. But, of course, a life spent in hedonistic pursuit turns out to be not so satisfying after all.

His hankering for fame soon leads to the breakdown of his relationship with assistant/love interest Wagner, played by Jade Anouka. However, the chemistry really fizzes between Faustus and Mephistopheles, played by Jenna Russell — though it's not hard to tell who has the most stage experience. Russell, with her cropped hair and nightie, is adept at holding an audience, and never acts the victim, despite Lucifer's (Forbes Masson) aggressive groping.

Not for the faint hearted. Photo: Marc Brenner

We had our doubts about Harington, who smoulders in red on the posters, but he's no shrinking violet on stage, especially when doing air guitar in his boxers or wreaking havoc from a makeshift shower. Greed and lust perfectly intermingle when Faustus, who has just sold his soul, sits, legs entangled with Mephistopheles, as they gorge on crisps.

The middle section of Colin Teevan's play places the Elizabethan tragedy firmly in the realm of reality television, Apple Macs and Mary Berry cookery books. We found the laptop's presence irritating; yes, theatres should do what they can to attract a younger audience, but sometimes the theatre is the one place where we can all hope to escape the devices of modern life.

Faustus and that bloody laptop. Photo: Marc Brenner

Return to your seats promptly after the interval to catch Russell's hilarious karaoke renditions of Kylie's Better the Devil You Know, Cliff Richard's Devil Woman and Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell. That and the Rik-Mayall-esque enactment of the seven deadly sins from Tom Edden, who plays the Good Angel. It's necessary respite from the blood-drenched action.

This Faustus is a play which favours full-frontal nudity over subtlety and innuendo, but we'd gladly sit through the whole shebang again just to see Forbes Masson (Lucifer), is his undies, miming Happy Birthday Mr President Marilyn Monroe style, with Russell on vocals.  

Ultimately, Faustus embodies human weakness, summed up in an unexpected and rather chilling finale.

Faustus and Mephistopheles. Photo: Marc Brenner

Doctor Faustus, directed by Jamie Lloyd is at The Duke of York's Theatre, St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4BG until 25 June. Tickets £15-£85. Recommended age due to content 17+ Minimum advised age 14. Londonist attended on a complimentary press ticket.

Last Updated 26 April 2016