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Doctor Faustus – Jon Snow sells his soul for fame!

| Theatre, Things to do | 28/04/2016


Game of Thrones star Kit Harington plays the title role in a new version of Doctor Faustus at The Duke of York’s Theatre until June 2016.  The classic play (written by Christopher Marlowe 400 years ago), in which the lead famously sells his soul to the devil, has been given a contemporary twist by the excellent Jamie Lloyd, fresh off the back of his recent success with The Maids and The Homecoming.  

What’s On London’s Shannon Rawlins attended the show’s preview to find out if Harington – who plays Jon Snow in the epic HBO series – could deliver a performance worthy of an opening night’s watch.

Before Jamie Lloyd announced his revival of Doctor Faustus, I had somehow managed to avoid the famous Christopher Marlowe play.  So when I sat down at The Duke of York’s Theatre, I had no idea what was in store.  This ultimately ended up being quite refreshing: with no expectations, I was keen to know what drove Faustus to his infamous pact with the devil.

Catapulted into two hours of madness, I was glued to the stage.  At first, this was mainly because I couldn’t make head nor tail of the Elizabethan language.  However, Harington has a captivating manner about him, making it clear to see why he is such a popular actor.  From the nerd in his hoodie at the beginning, to the blood-soaked Faustus we see in the dramatic conclusion, Harington has an undeniable presence.

Jenna Russell gives an unsettling characterisation of Mephistopheles, with other solid appearances from Jade Anouka (Wagner), Tom Edden (Good Angel), Danielle Flett (Valdes), Brian Gilligan (Cornelius), Forbes Masson (Lucifer) and Craig Stein (Evil Angel).  However, these cast members principally work around Russell and Harington.  In fact, there were times when I felt I was only watching the two of them, despite constant surroundings of blood, slobber and violence.

Taking along a friend who had studied the play at university (it was one of her favourites), the interval was a refreshing time to catch up on what I thought I had understood.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover I knew what was going on, showing the play’s deceptive and unexpected accessibility, although the language may provide a barrier to some.

Although it’s a fast-paced modernisation of the classic play, the production is draped in visual richness and a sometimes uneasy show of dirty undergarments.  The ideology of Doctor Faustus came across as a mix of modern shallowness and desperation for fame – making it every bit as topical as when it was first written.

Almost regardless, Game of Thrones fans will revel in watching Jon Snow parade around in his underwear for most of it, even if they have no idea what’s going on around him.

Doctor Faustus will run at The Duke of York’s Theatre until Saturday 25th June 2016.  Tickets are available here.

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