Doctor Faustus

Theatre, Drama
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(23user reviews)
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 (© Marc Brenner)
1/7
© Marc Brenner

Jenna Russell and Kit Harington

 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc Brenner

Forbes Masson, Kit Harington and Jenna Russell

 (© Marc Brenner)
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Craig Stein Kit Harington Tom Edden

 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc Brenner

Craig Stein Tom Edden Kit Harington

 (© Marc Brenner)
5/7
© Marc Brenner

Danielle Flett, Kit Harington and Forbes Masson

 (© Marc Brenner)
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© Marc Brenner

Jenna Russell and Kit Harington

 (© Marc Brenner)
7/7
© Marc Brenner

Kit Harington

You know nothing, Doctor Faustus! Kit Harington returns in a bizarre new version of Marlowe's classic

‘Game of Thrones’ heartthrob Kit Harington provides a big name draw for this outlandish new take on Christopher Marlowe’s classic play about a man who flogs his soul to the devil in exchange for awesome powers. Which is a jolly good job, as without Harington’s bug-eyed, blood covered, frequently topless presence, I suspect Jamie Lloyd’s often baffling production might struggle in the risk-averse West End.

Stacked as he undoubtedly is, there’s precious little vanity as the former (and maybe future) ‘GOT’ star Harington takes on his first stage part in six years. In Marlowe’s 1592 play, the eponymous Faustus is a scholar who enters a pact with Lucifer via his agent Mephistopheles in exchange for 24 years of superhuman power. In Lloyd’s update, Harington plays him more like a sweaty, socially dysfunctional nerd, who stumbles across  demonic rituals on the internet and decides to enact them after a brief struggle with his conscience.

I say ‘Marlowe’s play’: the big point of contention here is going to be that huge chunks of the original ‘Faustus’ have been hacked out and replaced by irreverent modern English passages by Colin Teevan that take up well over half of the night’s running time. In the bookending Marlowe bits, Harington’s clammy, bookish Faustus – sequestered in his grotty bedsit – is plagued by angels and demons that seem to exist more in the antihero’s head than reality. 

Meanwhile, Teevan’s vast middle section, though loosely a rewrite of the weakest segment of the original, feels like a different play entirely. It’s a hallucinogenic, scatalogical, madly improbable fantasy in which Faustus has become a superstar magician who hangs out with Obama and the Pope, who can perform godlike tricks, and whose every witticism is punctuated by laughter and canned applause.

The effect is, er, pretty out there. My vague theory is that this Faustus is a loner who never really leaves his flat, and is in the grip of a psychotic episode in the Teevan portions. But those portions are now most of the play – the effect is more like a gleeful graffiti-ing of Marlowe or a play 'after Marlowe' than an update.

At times it feels wilfully incoherent – though much about it is compelling. Harington is definitely a lot more than a chiselled chest – though if that’s what you’re here for, don’t worry, you see plenty of it. Physically agile and endlessly self-mocking – we never forget his Faustus is a bit of a loser, as his face constantly twists in disappointent and annoyance – he’s actually quite frightening as a man feverishly skirting the very boundaries of sanity and belief. 

But the show is really stolen by alt musical star Jenna Russell as a sullen, sarcastic and terrifying Mephistopheles, with whom Faustus has a peculiarly intense, sexually charged relationship. Again, I could offer a theory as to what aspect of Faustus’s subconscious she’s supposed to represent. Or I could just note that she’s great, she gets to sing Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’, and that she’s integral to the peculiar je ne sais quoi of a production that rewires an Elizabethan morality play into a wild twenty-first-century fever dream. 

By: Andrzej Lukowski

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Average User Rating

2.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 1 star:10
LiveReviews|23
3 people listening
Paul J
2 of 3 found helpful

Kill me now, this is awful, Marlowe must surely be spinning in his grave. I cannot envisage a worse adaptation of this classic. Mere words can not express the horror of this show . DO NOT SEE IT. DO NOT BUY TICKETS, DO NOT WASTE YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY, This is truly appalling. I would rather die a death of a thousand cuts than be forced to watch this garbage again.

Amy F

I found that Dr Faustus was by far one of the most well presented and thought provoking plays I've ever been too. It was a very interesting interpretation of the screenplay and all of the cast members did an excellent job at performing the different scenes. I would love to see it again and I have to say that I appreciated the fact that Kit Harington was sick but still continued to perform with passion and talent, along side Jenna Russell who played brilliantly as Mephistopheles and sang beautifully during the interval and Forbes Masson who gave the correct amount of malevolence and dark comedy to his role as Lucifer, . 


All of the cast members are very talented and the sets were beautifully made. The Duke of York Theatre itself had incredibly helpful staff and a happy environment. If this show ever came to different areas in England  with the same cast I would happily watch it again for the positive experience I had while watching this!

Laura M
Tastemaker

Having studied the play at University and being a massive GoT/Kit Harrington fan, I jumped at the opportunity to get tickets to see this play when I first heard it was going to be in the West End! The play from start to finish is entertaining and keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are some other actors throughout who steal the scenes they are in and I enjoyed seeing Kit go back to his theatre roots.I enjoyed the modern adaptation of the play and the performance as a whole, would definitely recommend to others while it's still on!



Adrian H
Tastemaker

I suppose it’s inevitable that, when you cast one of the hottest ‘young things’ of the moment, an audience might not know or even understand the play they have paid to see. Such was the case with this production of Doctor Faustus. Women abandoned boyfriends at the bar as the whisper went round that Kit Harington was already onstage five minutes before the production began; camera flashes illuminated expectant faces as people snapped and uploaded pictures of his hoodie-hooded figure; sweet packets rustled relentlessly in the darkness as the play began in the original Elizabethan text, arguably losing half the audience whose expectations were slightly different. But maybe that’s just me.


The heart of this production is focused on what the cult of celebrity means today with its modern reworking of Marlowe’s play, Kit Harington’s Faustus arrogant and vulnerable in turns as he toys with his power, aided and abetted by Jenna Russell’s Mephistopheles. Inevitably the audience are treated to the sight of Harington’s toned, sculpted body – a classical Greek statue amidst the saggy underpants and nighties of the demons and angels around him.


I couldn’t help but feel that a lot of the camp, farcical elements of the production were obvious and tiredly stereotypical – Lucifer’s loud ‘caviar faeces’ being one such instance; satirising corporate fat cats another. The production did do well to capture the emptiness at the heart of young Hollywood – but again this worked all the better by having one such ‘bright young thing’ leading the charge.


A play for a youthful audience? Most definitely, particularly in an age where access to the world and its wonders is already at one’s fingertips and success is more an expectation than a hard-earned reward; a play that captures the ambiguity of Marlowe’s troubled, tragic protagonist? Perhaps not – but more the fault of this reworking than the unexpected versatility of the leading man.

Carly-Ann Clements
Staff Writer

This was one of the worst pieces of theatre I've seen on the West End. Between Kit Harrington's hammy performance, the horrible modern interpretation. The excessive amount of fake blood and vomit. It all felt a bit am-dram and a bit of a mess.If I hadn't brought my brother, I would have walked out.

Palida T

Was super excited to find out that Kit Harrington was starring in this play so of course I spent a fortune on tickets just so I could sit near the front to get a good look at him! Erm except, to find out that he wasn't in the show that day and was instead replaced by someone that sort of looked like him. I think I can speak on behalf of most of the women who were there and say that we were all very DISAPPOINTED!! To make it even worse the play was utter rubbish! Oh well at least we're still guaranteed too see Kit on Game of Thrones :)

Giulia S

I was really looking forward to seeing this, albeit mainly because Kit Harrington was in the play, but it was tragically terrible. I have seem many abstract/obscure plays but this was something else. The plot didn't stick to the original story and kept flitting between modern and old english. I'm in no way a prude, but there was unnecessary nudity that added nothing to the story, and crass comments and sexualisations at any opportunity. If Kit didn't play the lead character, I doubt this play would even have made it to the West End.

Naomi M

This was just awful. Walked out during the interval clutching a bottle of wine. Systematic slaughter of Marlowe with no redeeming graces. Kit's weedy rendition could've been rescued with some proper direction. alas. 

AME
Tastemaker

Contrary to the reviews below, I think this adaptation of a classic play was actually really good. Marlowe had some pretty vividly shocking intentions for how this play was meant to play out and I think Jamie Lloyd portrayed the horror and shock of it all very well. Yes, there were definitely parts that took it too far and were just unnecessary but for the most part it did was theatre should do: shocked, engaged and informed. It would have been nice for more of the original script to have been included in the production but I thought the link between the original wording and the modern take was very interesting and very 'now'. The set and effects throughout were interesting and made the live theatre in front of you very exciting. The dancing and chanting gave a very eery feel to it all and I think Kit Harington (having not known who he was prior to this, sorry Game of Thrones fans) did a fantastic jon. The actor who played out all the 7 deadly sins was the best though, so versatile and talented!

Alessia C

I saw the play today and I absolutely loved it! I'm not familiar with Marlow's original play and I know they adapted it but I thought it was visually stimulating and creative with the dance, the colors and the horror-like scenes and atmosphere. It was also much more funny than I expected especially since they made some references to recent Uk events. All the actors were really good and you could see them acting at 100% since it was an highly physical play.

I think they could have improved by a) being more coherent with the language that shifted between current and 1500 old English and b) Faustus desire of knowledge that in the play became desire to be famous. I could have lived also without the frontal nudity of the first scene and the sexual harassment but I appreciated the will of the actors to fully use their body in every scene!

John C
tastemaker

This is just a silly production. If I was a lot younger I probably would  have enjoyed the outrageousness of it all.

The highlight of the show is Jenna Russell who really tries hard to do something with her role (Mephistopheles). At one stage she blasts out "Bat Out of Hell", which gets a great audience response - but what has it got to do with the play ?

Emma S

I find it irresponsible that a play which is going to entice young first time theatre goers is so needlessly difficult, confusing and inaccessible.  People who have never been to theatre before, may never go again.  Doctor Faustus is a brilliant play, this version is not.

Stephen L

Thought it was a terrific spectacle and particularly enjoyed the blend of classic and modern dialogue that brought this tale for all time to life. Some of the staging was imaginative and performances generally at least sound and some great. Kit Harington doesn't have to carry the show but he does provide an energy and dynamic that keeps the whole thing moving exceptionally well. watch out for some pre show and interval treats from the cast on the apron. A little hellish karaoke never goes amiss!

Angela L

So I went with no expectations as I don't watch GOT and I don't know anything about this play.  What I did know was Kit Harrington is good looking so I booked a front row seat which is a slight HIT & MISS because you kinda have to crane your neck the whole time and flinch from all the spitting.  Story wise, I was a bit lost at the beginning, because it's a "modern" setting but the language is all "thee" "art" "thou".  I get the story and I think some of the other characters are absolute scene stealers.  I found myself grimacing at times as it was all a bit horrid - I am not into horror and there are elements of horror in this.  I didn't mind the flesh on show but wasn't sure it was all that necessary. As I was sat so close to the stage, i really got a good look at KH and could've grabbed his butt if I wanted to - yeap he got THAT close.  But anyway when the play reverted to modern language I understood what was going on again but at the end it went back to "thee" "art" "thou" so I don't get the ending! Pass the Cliffs Notes!

Kirsty S
tastemaker

The original script is not much to play on but I enjoyed the show. Kit Harrington was great as the lead as you rally get into his character and how he is torn apart and was executed perfectly. It is dark and sexy but does drag a bit.

Susan P

Was looking forward to this and knew that the middle had been adapted. But what was the point of Cornelius and Valdez appearing as full frontal nudes at the beginning? And the rest of the cast apart from Faustus and Wagner creeping about in undies that looked like they could do with a good wash? Even worse, the awful toilet humour and sexual innuendo and worse that made a 'Carry On' film look almost highbrow?? Poor Marlowe!!

Ru C

Good in parts. Terrible in others. The nudity of Valdez and Cornelius at the start was odd, bought nothing to the story and along with tacky, unnecessary sexualisation and trashy toilet humour, made a mockery of the production and the actors. Costume was only slightly stepped up from nudity to old tatty nighties.

George L

It's not complicated. Sometimes you simply watch a play and shale your head in disbelief and say it's great. Other times you simply say very disappointing. This was the later and there are little grey areas in this. Any adaption of this play can take a variety of forms but to be blunt this was very poor and not worth the money or time. Kit Harrington is a wonderful screen actor and at the beginning I was starting to get taken in but the whole production has a catch of 'licence do whatever and call it abstract'. It's not worth seeing. Period. 

David F

    “Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed 
    In one self place, for where we are is hell, 
    And where hell is must we ever be.”

    This is certainly true of the Duke of York Theatre at the moment. I love this play, when staged properly it's utterly engaging, profound and funny, and the language is sublime (the Globe version a couple of years ago did complete justice to the brilliant material).  However in the hands of this production it is total dross: a humourless, pretentious, unintelligible, needlessly gimmicky piece of vandalism against Marlowe.. The audience are largely there to gawp at a star so if you want to appreciate some of the finest English dramatic writing DO NOT COME HERE. Until yesterday I'd never walked out of a play before and I only made it as far as the signing of the pact to see if the opening was in some way ironic. In order to post this comment I'm obliged to leave it one star which I hereby retract.

    'A torment to lay upon the damned', indeed.


Julia M

You definitely get a lot of Kit Harington for your money, he is often in his underwear and nice to look at. There are some interesting ideas in the play, but the beginning is quite boring, and although the topic is still valid today, I am not sure if it is enough for a whole evening. Could be a modern German play, where at least one naked person has to be in it, here you get even two. And no,Kit Harington is not one of them, he stays in his underwear, sorry to disappoint you lusty folks.

Paula - ToT
tastemaker

This play is NOT for the faint-hearted and is pretty tough viewing in parts.  However, I really enjoyed it and thought the two main actors were brilliant - Kit Harington is also pretty easy on the eye too!  The play looks to bring the play into the modern world and I think this is done really successfully.  Go see this, but beware of the VERY adult content.

Kirby R

Amazing show, awful review. Spelling and grammar is off and GoT has already finished filming! But each to their own..