adapted from Goethe by Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Gísli Örn Garðarsson, Carl Grose, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Víkingur Kristjánsson.
Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 30 October 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm no performance 14 Oct. Mat Sat 2.45pm
Audio-described 27 Oct.
Captioned 21 Oct.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 October.
German classic with high net value.
This Faust begins neither in heaven nor a theatre, where Goethe had his prologues, but in an old people’s home, pre-Christmas. Ordered routines wind down as staff prepare to leave for their holiday, with nurse Valentine preventing his young sister Greta taking a present from an old actor, who is persuaded to act a bit of Faust.
But some of those present are not what they seem, and disorder soon erupts all round. The actor is told he must sign his deed in real blood. Devils roar up through the floor, then in the first of several shocks one seems to spring above us. There a net is spread, with trampoline-like flexibility. At the Walpurgis-night rock concert wild demonic characters race around up there, and drop from even greater heights. Sometimes they invade the stage, or leap from there to run and crawl swiftly overhead, like a horror film’s plague of invading creatures.
Their sudden final eruption, as Faust thinks he’s moving heavenward, sensationally mixes physical skill and energy with thematic development. In a secular world Faust is looking for meaning. He denies God but searches for one moment of perfection, which will resonate throughout his life and become his secular eternity. Trying to find it with Greta, he uses Mefisto’s power to regain physical youth – leaving his aged body to the troll-like demon spirit whose shape he’s taken.
Of course, masses of Goethe is left out: what’s here is the sense of life as unending enquiry, and the impossibility of perfection, which ends this explosion of theatrical fireworks with the quiet sight of Faust, old again and alone, bowing in prayer to ask for one more chance. It’s never giving up on the impossible that makes us truly human.
This is never empty sensation, and Iceland’s Vesturport (with Reykjavik City Theatre and Germany’s Theatre im Pfalzbau – though Vesturport’s is the artistic stamp), a ten-year old theatre collective set-up by several of this company, and hallmarked by the style of director Gísli Örn Garðarsson, has made from Goethe a show that had the Young Vic’s youthful audience cheering in exhilarated admiration.
Johann: Thorsteinn Gunnarsson/ Björn Hlynur Haraldsson,
Asmodeus: Björn Hlynur Haraldsson/ Thorsteinn Gunnarsson.
Mefisto: Hilmir Snær Guðnason.
Lilith: Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir.
Greta: Unnur Ösp Stefánsdóttir.
Valentine: Rúnar Freyr Gíslason.
Eva: Hanna María Karlsdóttir.
Hans: Jóhannes Níels Sigurðsson.
Annie: Svava Björg Örlygsdóttir.
Director: Gísli Örn Garðarsson.
Designer: Axel Jóhannesson.
Lighting: Orri Pétursson.
Sound: Thorbjorn Knudsen, Frank Hall.
Music: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis.
Music arrangement: Frank Hall.
Costume: Filippia Elísdóttir.
Make-up: Sigridur Rósa Bjarnadóttir.
Voice coach: Neil Swain.
Master of Knots: Olafur Benonyson.