Review: Faust

Written for Whats On StageFaust (Young Vic)

Vesturport’s Faust is a continuous display of theatrical bangs and whistles. With Andy Warhol as the devil, a synchronised wheelchair number and acrobats that explode onto the stage from all sides (including the ceiling), this explosive production is certainly in keeping with this dynamic company’s bombastic visual flair.

Johann is a famous actor glumly disillusioned with both his past achievements and his pretty nurses’ confidence in a heaven and hell. Into this stagnant old peoples home climbs Mefisto, a jerky re-animated corpse of a demon, who uses pretty Greta to tempt Johann into signing on the dotted line and becoming Faust. It is a blood pact entailing the promise of one lasting moment of happiness for Faust’s soul and is perhaps one of the most famous deals in literary history.

But for a story that is so well known, this production is as slippery as the promises of its devils. Vesturport’s grip on theatrical spectacle is undoubtable but more questionable is their ability to tell a story clearly. Thus in the middle of all the glamour and grotesque winking and nudging it is hard to follow the journey of our anti-hero. Although Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ sophisticated and emotive soundtrack succeeds in some ways in filling these narrative cracks.

Director Gisli Orn Gardarsson has thrown all he can at Goethe’s original text in a production which revels in the visceral theatricality of this morality tale. It’s impressive, and boasts some compelling performances, but ultimately it’s also muddled and confusingly busy. The moment of stillness at the end hits just the right note as the stakes of what have been lost are finally felt, but as with Faust’s own self realisation, it feels as though this moment of unfettered communication has come just a little too late.

Runs from 25 September 2010 to 30 October 2010


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