Doctor Faustus

Sat 5th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Chloe Moloney

at 09:08 on 6th Aug 2017

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‘Doctor Faustus’ is a hot new musical, with the source of its inspiration harking back to Christopher Marlowe’s original 1604 play. Before embarking on a tour of the UK ‘Doctor Faustus’ graces the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with its Broadway-style musical numbers tinged by the dark lining of financial motives. Under the watchful eye of Claude-Michel Schönberg, writers Sarah Wright and John Paul have created an awe-inspiring production concerning medical researcher Dr Emma Faustus (Linnéa Didrick), and her turbulent journey in discovering the cure for disease.

The transformation of a somewhat antiquated text into a brand spanking new context - a world riddled with corporate disease - is executed with a sparkling brilliance which contains ‘no magic, just science.’ The 1600s play has been dragged by the ears into a shiny twenty-first century whirlwind, and the integration of traditional musical theatre and sci-fi technological advancements make this production a gem of the modern day. Set against a backdrop of what at first glance appeared to be shards of glass, the musical rolled on with the introduction of the increasingly malicious medical world; this choice indeed may be interpreted as visual evidence of the business-orientated swelling of monetary desire.

Dr Emma Faustus is troubled by the loss of her girlfriend Beth (Victoria Hoyle), who continues to spur her thoughts and act as the catalyst behind her actions. Hoyle plays Beth’s spirit with zippy and frenetic energy, a fizz of a girl who equally casts her rational eye over her mourning and beautifully tragic girlfriend.

Emma Faustus sells her morality away to Mephistopheles – yet this portrayal is far from the demonic figure of Marlowe’s original play. A suave commander of language, this corporate devil uses ‘marketing’ and manipulation in a harsh and brutal business world. This musical perfectly unravels questions of how far you would step over the line to get exactly what you wanted.

The only aspect which may have hindered the performance is the contrast in volume between the actors’ singing and the musical soundtrack, which more often than not drowned out the clarity in the delivery. The musical numbers varied in style from sweet and vulnerable to twangy electric guitar that left you tapping your feet and humming the melody right as you stepped out the door. Coupled with the profound lyrics, and in particular those of Beth, the heart of the production is sincerely conveyed despite the rocking melodies. Not only does this musical rework Dr Faustus for the eyes and ears of a contemporary audience, but it allows us to re-evaluate our own position in the mega machine of the incessant corporate munch. Characters such as Johnny (Liam Connery) reinforce the idea that ‘the only winners are the money spinners’, brewing the question in the spectator’s mind as to the true value of the money in their pockets.

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Charlotte Lock

at 09:50 on 6th Aug 2017

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Tiger House Theatre present an unusual rendition of Faustus; straying off the beaten track in devising a musical based on Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan tragedy and setting the play in the modern day. 'Dr Faustus' removes all sense of magic and prides itself on the focus on science. In this adaptation, Dr Faustus is a female medical scientist attempting to find a cure for the disease which took her girlfriend, and explores the lengths one may go to in the name of what may be envisaged as love, but is ultimately selfish obsession.

Almost the entire production was performed in song which, whilst impressive, distracted from the more serious issues addressed within the show. The upbeat nature of much of the soundtrack seemed rather discordant, given the darker aspects often discussed, and backing dancers with rigorous choreography took the focus away from significant moments of drama. The music further seemed incongruous with the stage design, which was particularly striking, with large misted glass shards cutting diagonally through each other. It is this fusion of the serious storyline and setting with distinctly lively music which felt somewhat at variance. Furthermore, the combination of a large variety of musical genres left the production feeling somewhat confused and unfortunately the excessive volume of the backing tracks frequently overpowered the capable voices of cast members.

Despite this, Linnéa Didrick, in the role of Emma Faustus, should be applauded for her character development - particularly in the portrayal of her relationship with Victoria Hoyle, who plays Beth, Faustus’ girlfriend. A heart-wrenching depiction of grief is portrayed by Didrick, innovatively displayed by repeatedly using Beth’s recorded answering phone message to develop a sort of connection with her. It is somewhat shocking to the audience when it is first revealed that Beth is, in fact, dead, and thus Hoyle plays a sort of ghost or figment of the imagination for Didrick. The poignant affection between the couple is one of the highlights of the show, and an important motivation for Faustus. In particular, Didrick develops habits for her character, such as frequently touching a necklace during times of stress, which is later revealed to be a sign of her relationship with Beth. It is these smaller details which highlight the potential for the show and the actors.

Ultimately, the finale of the production, without providing any spoilers, was distinctly unlike Marlowe’s vision. Whilst there should be a certain degree of artistic licence, it arguably strayed too far to become an overtly positive ending, forgetting that Mephistopheles is still effectively a demon, and providing an entirely different moral to the original version of 'Faustus.' That being said, the Fringe is a time for experimentation and the production was undoubtedly engaging and bursting with energy, the general plot demonstrating potential, and the actors showing their versatility.

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