by Chris Thorpe.
Unicorn Theatre (Weston auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ In rep to 9 March 2014.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 February.
Boldly intelligent, if problematic, updating.
Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus thought he had the devil in his pocket. Chris Thorpe’s space-age Faust-pact-baby Hannah keeps hers in a tank. It’s her pet lizard Dave, which escapes, turning-up in human form to mislead her towards unhelpful speculation.
Hannah is an advance on the late-medieval Dr John Faustus. No comic trickery here, with supernatural magic become a crowd-pleasing sideshow. Hannah focuses on serious stuff, even if that’s shorn for a more secular speculative age. It doesn’t go the full Dawkins but nor does it work within any religious cosmos.
Yet cosmological it certainly becomes at its climax, which is visual, with Andrej Goulding’s projections making the floor tidally slither and energising the wall of Hannah’s otherwise typical young teenager bedroom. And aural, as Ed Lewis’s sound-score increases in volume and intensity.
Kae Alexander’s lively Hannah is an innocent modern Faust. She doesn’t seek power for herself, she is no more a rebel than any growing person whose mother (the only apparent parent) has insufficient time for her in the morning – brusque instructions to get out of bed and off to school are the most a Mum with her own job to go to can muster.
But ideas about invention and scientific ideas tumble around in Hannah’s enquiring mind, making her both fascinated and anxious. As matters eventually resolve into a calmer manner, this becomes once again a statement of the importance of the nuclear family in the nuclear age.
In her imaginings Hannah had seen her scientist mother making a major breakthrough, but only with Dave’s diabolic help. The truth is more prosaic – it’s just been another day at the lab – and more comforting.
Thorpe’s ingenuity in updating the old story for 11s and over is matched by his nailing it to human truths in a modern setting. What he doesn’t have is Marlowe’s poetic fire – nor does his situation call so much for it. Which can make the longer speeches seem more a commentary on, rather than part of, the action, a tendency increased by the Chorus figure whose expositions become intrusive footnotes to the dramatic adventure.
Hannah: Kae Alexander.
Mum: Irma Inniss.
Dave: Ian Keir Attard.
Chorus: Rhys Rusbatch.
Director: Simon Evans.
Designer: Ben Stones.
Lighting: David W Kidd.
Sound: Ed Lewis.
Projection: Andrej Goulding.