FAUSTAFF, or THE MOCKERY OF THE SOUL
by Diego Sosa Ortega.
Cockpit Theatre Gateforth Street NW8 8EH To 6 December 2015.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7258 2925.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 November.
Intriguing conception needs considerably tighter performances.
There’s a lot of the Faust about this Anglo-Italian/Mexican production (performed in English), but nothing of the Falstaff. Popular thriller-writer Gily Jacoby’s having problems with plots and characters, when a Chorus-like figure joins her staff, offering inspiration in return for her spirit, hanging around her, invisible and inaudible to others.
As a result, stories develop in her mind and in the action. She meets another novelist, Olivier Simone and warns him off the young waitress who admires his writing, as suspicions invade her mind under the Faustian pact to which she’s subscribed. Jonson Wilkinson’s other significant role is Ponton, a protagonist in Gily’s new novel. Or so it appears.
For once the imaginary and the real intermingle in the medium of theatre, where all the surfaces are pretence, it’s very easy to create confusion and the wearying atmosphere of the pretentious.
While the Cockpit’s in-the-Round stage provides the potential for a dreamlike world with aspects of solidity, and while Rodrigo Johnson Celorio’s production seeks to uses the space’s potential for this smallish-cast, fragmentary play inventively, an overall slackness of direction and weaknesses in the deeply variable acting create a hesitancy that prevents involvement in either the overall speculative aspects or the more immediately gripping sections of crime narrative originating in, but perhaps extending beyond, Gily’s novels.
Least effective of all, with its reminiscence of the Pozzo and Lucky scenes from Waiting for Godot are the two detectives tramping around close together, who go variously deaf or blind, and who might be simply parodies of the police, or something more philosophical. Containing both the best and (by a narrow margin in quite a competitive field) worst of the acting, it’s hard to know how – or whether – to take them.
The end comes as a surprise, not in the sense of any sudden realisation, but because no obvious conclusion’s been reached. It’s one of those occasions when the sole sign things are over comes with the solitary applause of someone in the know. There are intriguing elements in Diego Sosa Ortega’s script but they rarely come to life in this desultory evening.
Gily Jacoby: Lesley Lightfoot.
Olivier Simone/Ponton/Andrew: Jonson Wilkinson.
Chorus/Apothecary: Eddie Chamberlin.
Detective Paterson: Bernard O’Sullivan.
Detective Virgil: Charles Timson.
Maria/Karla/Alice/Martha: Alessia Gotti.
Director/Lighting: Rodrigo Johnson Celorio.
Designer: Raul Cano.
Music: Richard Meehan.
Costume: Lesley Lightfoot.
Assistant directors: Raquel Moreno, Nirvania Quesada.