Drawn from Goethe’s Faust part I
National Theatre, 21 Wapping Lane, London E1
Tue to Sat 7:00 to 7:30 (check tickets)
Runs 2hr 30 mins to 3 hours – take an interval when you want one
TICKETS: 0207 452 3000
Review: Geoff Ambler November 2006
One thing you must do before you die … or before 31st March
Faust is quite possibly the most intensely emotional journey you can experience in theatre today; well until March ’07 anyway. In an environment seemingly conjured from the memories of a Dantean nightmare, Faust’s creators have occupied a derelict archiving warehouse in Wapping, converting five floors into their theatre, a private world that their characters will occupy in an evocative dance through their passion.
This is what happens when you invite the audience through the fourth wall into the performance. Rather than walking into a back stage area you enter the world of Faust, see the environments the characters occupy when they are not in the story, sitting in their office, house, bar, shop, reliving their lives over and over again.
On arrival the audience are given long plain ghostly white or sculptured black masks and then dropped off, from an old scissor lift in small groups, into the set; a vast interconnecting series of stages, the world that the actors live and perform, ignore or interact with the wandering, voyeuristic and completely anonymous watchers.
At first it is disorientating, you lose your friends, your bearings and wander in the dreamlike and frequently nightmarish landscapes; a cold snow covered pine forest, a corn field, a dark corridor filled with religious statues, candles and the loud tick of a grandfather clock breaking the deathly silence. There are so many intricately crafted settings that getting lost is an exciting adventure in itself.
I alternate between gloom and darkness, my eyes adjusting to the blackness around me in time to see wondrous pieces of the story performed right next to me. Occasionally I wander through a scene and latch onto a character to follow them through their story as they move thorough their world, interacting with other characters; occasionally a major scene unfolds in front of me; a seduction and rape in a bar crowded with other characters and white masked onlookers makes the scene more powerful than would be possible under a proscenium arch; a dance in a hall where the audience are pulled onto the floor and seduced; a wild evangelist in the wood berating the sinning watchers, pulls someone into a hut to cast out their evil; a dead man rising somnolently from the scene of his murder, stares earnestly into my eyes, puts his mouth next to my ear to whisper “Have you seen my Sister?” chills my spine.
It’s a nightmare I can’t wake up from, an exploration of love and lust and despair and I didn’t want it to end. I’ve been twice and I’ll go again, I haven’t seen everything there is to see yet, and I certainly haven’t seen enough. Take good friends when you go. An experience like this has to be shared. No one else will believe you when you babble on about witches and demons battling from strops, hanging from the ceiling in the pitch darkness of a hellish basement in 21 Wapping Lane.
Faust: Dan Canham
Mephistopheles: Vinicius Salles
Old Faust: Edward Halstead
Gretchen: Sarah Labigne
Good Angel: Ben Duke
Bad Angel: Geir Hytten
Martha: Fernanda Prata
Valentine: Nick Barber
Father: Paul O’ Shea
Mother: Jane Leaney
Witches: Meline Danielewicz, Conor Doyle, Carrie Jones, Rob McNeill
Evangelist: Sam Booth
Rose: Kate Hargreaves
Linden: Hector Hargreaves
Singer: Rebecca Botten
Artistic Direction: Felix Barrett
Direction and Choreography: Maxine Doyle
Design: Robin Harvey
Lighting: Matt Prentice
Sound: Stephen Dobbie
Costume: Tina Bicat