This event has now finished. Until Oct 30 2010

© Eddi

Time Out says  

Posted: Wed Oct 6 2010

The story of the scholar who sells his soul has a devilish fascination for the most dazzling European theatre-makers. But even Silviu Purcarete and Rupert Goold - whose art-world Faust featuring the Cohen brothers pulled him out of regional obscurity - have struggled to modernise the metaphysics. How can you make Faust's one-way journey from knowledge to damnation (or redemption, if Goethe is your guide) meaningful for a modern audience?

GÌsli Örn Gardarsson and his spectacularly limber Icelandic company, Vesturport, have created a shambolically contemporary 'Faust': its hollow magnificence, aerial freak-outs and gaudy cynicism knot together like an electric noose around the neck of an old soul, still burning in Romantic agony.

Faust himself (the craggy faced, majestic Thorsteinn Gunnarson) is a retired actorin a grimly upbeat home for the aged: in the spirit of atheism and aesthetic protest, he tries to hang himself with the Christmas tree lights. He jumps,struggles, doubts - then Mefisto (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) tears his way out of a geriatric'scorpse with all the élan of a zombie David Bowie.

Ingeniously, Gardarrsson's version suggests that everything that subsequently erupts, from the devils who loll in nets above the audience, to Johann's seduction of his innocent young nurse Greta, might be happening in the elongated delirium of Faust's final moment.

Gadarsson's adaptation (which freestyles on Goethe's rigorous epic) is zany but haunting. Themes and ideas return with a growing,hallucinatory intensity, which is amplified by the thrilling aerial staging. Johann's love object Greta (Unnur Ösp Stefansdottir, lovely) is transformed over several entrances from a sandaled and uniformed nurse to a flying, libidinous swan: like a dreamer's riff on reality, she repeats some of the same lines each time she enters. Even Faust's Byzantine pact with the devil gains a new secular resonance.

Traditionally, Faust agrees to be damned if Mephistopheles shows him a pleasure that he wants to experience for ever. Here, it seems that the human heart's desire for everlasting and requited love is what makes his life hell.

Visually, 'Faust' is often a great springboard for imaginative companies (Punchdrunk's remains the most spectacular I've seen).Vesturport's athletic staging has shoddy moments: the gore and cowboy boot aesthetic is very Camden Lock; some of the acting is a bit budget horror, and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis's Walpurgisnacht music is too flaccid to get the devil's party started.

What's rare and great is the marriage of script and spectacle: Vesturport takes you on a slightly ramshackle flying leap into the grotesque without coming untethered from the emotional
and philosophical truths that make Faust's fall so moving.

Faust reinvented

Young Vic details

Main House Young Vic, 66 The Cut, SE1 8LZ

Young Vic

The Young Vic finally returned to its refurbished home in The Cut in 2007 with acclaimed community show 'Tobias & the Angel'. As you would expect,...

Read full venue review

Transport Southwark/Waterloo 


020 7922 2922


Book theatre tickets