Faustus: That Damned Woman directed by Caroline Byrne
The Birmingham REP Theatre, 26 February – 7 March 2020
Runs: 2h 20m, no interval
Tickets: 0121 236 4455
Info and Tickets: https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/
Review Dan Auluk 04 Mar 2020
Faustus: That Damned Woman a re-imagining of Christopher Marlowe’s production Doctor Faustus. In Marlowe’s production the protagonist, Faustus, agrees to his own damnation in return for 24 years of earthy pleasures and knowledge. In Byrne’s production at the REP Faustus is now played by a young woman, living in the 17th Century, who after a traumatic event, is tricked into making a pact with the devil, selling her soul for a time travelling (only forwards) 144 years, eventually trying to save humanity 3000 years later. Various key historical moments and characters (such as Marie Curie) are missed or caught up with enabling her on her quest to move from anger, revenge and finally saviour. All this with the devil on her shoulder and inside her mind.
The staging, lighting, and audio/visuals are used to dramatic effect and work well and move the story along. Scenes transition into one another seamlessly with simple use of sound and lighting. The white pristine costumes of the devils are distracting, in terms of flamboyance allowing humour to creep in, giving release to the audience both in character embodied and dense dialogue, losing momentum from what otherwise had a strength in intensity. The dialogue, although handled well by the actors, was a lot to decipher and the narration at times affected pace and disconnection for audiences to make up their own mind.
Jodie McNee (Faustus) delivers a remarkable physical performance throughout which is only hampered by the sheer amount of dialogue which she delivers albeit well. In her opening scene and end scenes especially, there was real intensity and calmness that allowed audiences a way in. Danny Lee Wynter’s devil character (Mephistopheles), was played confidently, however the camp charm distracted from the intensity of the play. Father and Lucifer (Barnaby Power) was played well too, both in transformation of character and performance, believable and focused.
The time travelling aspect to the play became confusing at times and perhaps this is where the dialogue or set changes needs to become more apparent in a visual sense for audience to remain engaged. The dialogue at times was perhaps over balanced in various scenes and some change of pace may have given the characters more space to breathe.
Beware the clock is ticking, the devil is coming.
Cornelia, Jenny and Alice Katherine Carlton
Violet and Marie Alicia Charles
Katherine, Dr Garrett and Isobel Emmanuella Cole
Johanna Faustus Jodie McNee
Father and Lucifer Barnaby Power
Newbury, Judge and Pierre Tim Samuels
Mephistopheles Danny Lee Wynter
Writer Chris Bush
Director Caroline Byrne
Set Designer Ana Ines Jabares-Pita
Costume Designer Line Bech
Lighting Designer Richard Howell
Composer and Sound Designer Giles Thomas
Video Designer Ian William Galloway