FAUST: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Nottingham Playhouse: Tkts 0115 941 9419.
Runs: 1h 20m: no interval.
Performance times: 7.30pm.
Review: Alan Geary: 11th June 2011.
Visually, and often emotionally, stunning.
It isn’t every day you get to see a play in Polish. Even less often is it a classic of German theatre being presented in that language. Goethe’s Faust, the latest play in the Neat11 Festival is a visual feast, unquestionably, but you keep wishing it was in English.
As compensation the surtitles give you a translation, a lot of the time in rhyming couplets, which is, mostly, fine poetry.
It hardly matters that it’s occasionally hard to follow or to work out who’s who. Over a total of eighty minutes without an interval this is visually, and often emotionally, stunning
Teatr Nowy from Poznan, under director Janusz Wiśniewski, present it as a play within a play. The so-called Master or the Altar, who’s in charge of a cluttered studio space, puts on the play proper. Weirdly, the audience is represented by a couple of statues sitting in chairs.
There are other weird touches. The supporting characters are apparently a cross section of Faust’s town neighbours but each of them is an outrageous grotesque. One of the males is played for some unknown reason by a woman, and exaggerated make-up is de rigueur. Perhaps the most powerful moments come when they collectively crucify Jesus; but all through the play, as characters wearing white face make-up so often are, they’re disturbing and somehow threatening.
Faust himself (Mariusz Puchalski) is well played, as are Mephistopheles (Miroslaw Kropielnicki) and Gretchen (Edyta Łucaszewska). Faust starts the play white faced and hideously bloated. In the end he and Gretchen are lying alongside each other, zipped up in black body bags.
According to the programme, background music is from Jerzy Satanowski; but it’s also possible to detect some of that famous Third symphony by Gorecki. The Satanowski is as bitter and threatening as the characters; the Gorecki, of course, is as tragic as the play.
Master of the Altar: Witold Dębicki.
Mephistopheles: Mirołsav Kropielnicki.
Faust: Mariusz Puchalski.
Gretchen: Edyta Łukaszewska.
Madame Auerbach: Daniela Popłlawska.
Madame Switzerland: Janusz Grenda.
Marta Schwerdtlein: Antonina Choroszy.
Care: Sława Kraśniewska.
Baucis: Irena Grzonka.
Philemon: Edward Warzecha/Janusz Andrzejewski.
Wagner: Bolesław Idziak.
Homunculus: Andrzej Lajborek.
Maple: Paweł Binkowski.
Puk: Radosłav Elis.
Soldier: Waldemar Szczepaniak.
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΠΑΣΤΧΩΝ: Janusz Andrzejewski/Nikodem Kasprowicz.
Staging: Janusz Wiśniewski.
Music: Jerzy Satanowski.
Costumes: Irena Biegańska.