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A reviews round-up for Doctor Faustus at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Jamie Lloyd’s much anticipated production of Doctor Faustus starring Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington has now opened. Surprisingly for Lloyd, most reviews have taken a dim view of his updated take on Marlow’s iconic tale. Jenna Russell almost steals the show post interval when she sing Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Harington more than holds his own, however the production is oft referred to as incoherent, baffling and a Marlovian mish-mash.

Here’s a round-up of reviews from The Guardian, Observer, Time Out, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Stage.

Doctor Faustus runs until 25 June 2016 at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

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REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING Time Out

“without Harington’s bug-eyed, blood covered, frequently topless presence, I suspect Jamie Lloyd’s often baffling production might struggle in the risk-averse West End.”

“Teevan’s vast middle section, though loosely a rewrite of the weakest segment of the original, feels like a different play entirely. It’s a hallucinogenic, scatalogical, madly improbable fantasy in which Faustus has become a superstar magician who hangs out with Obama and the Pope, who can perform godlike tricks, and whose every witticism is punctuated by laughter and canned applause. The effect is, er, pretty out there.”

“At times it feels willfully incoherent – though much about it is compelling. Harington is definitely a lot more than a chiselled chest – though if that’s what you’re here for, don’t worry, you see plenty of it.”
“the show is really stolen by alt musical star Jenna Russell as a sullen, sarcastic and terrifying Mephistopheles.. she’s great, she gets to sing Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’, .. she’s integral to the peculiar je ne sais quoi”

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out

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STAR RATING The Guardian

“The Game of Thrones actor gives us a sense of the scholar’s flailing despair but Jamie Lloyd’s excessive version of the tragedy comes with a trite message”
The presence of Game of Thrones’s Kit Harington, who is a perfectly good actor, in the title role will guarantee a young audience but what they will see is a Marlovian mish-mash.”

[Harington] is much more than a TV icon and, when the production allows him, he gives us a sense of Faustus’s flailing despair: I’d certainly like to see him venture further into classical theatre. Russell also lends Mephistopheles a commanding presence, greeting a good angel with a steely gaze and suggesting the character is driven by sexual, as well as spiritual, jealousy. Jade Anouka, meanwhile, turns Wagner into the image of loving constancy and Forbes Masson is a suitably diabolical Lucifer although, when we see him noisily taking a dump, I felt we were confronted by those old familiar faeces.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

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STAR RATING The Independent

“Though there aren’t enough colours in his voice as yet to convey the interior music of Marlowe’s mighty line, Harington throws himself into the part with audacious commitment, restlessly signalling the pit of soul hunger that no amount of applause or material gratification (a whole pizza gobbled down in strips) can fill.”

“Ambitious but incoherent, it’s a show that embraces some of the good as well as the unfortunate meanings of “diabolical”.

Paul Taylor, The Independent

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STAR RATING The Observer

“Kit Harington gets his kit off and Jenna Russell sings Bat out of Hell… but no one profits from this deal with the devil”

“Everyone applauds Jamie Lloyd’s determination to get new – by which he means – young audiences into the theatre. But does he really have to sell the soul of his material to do this?”

“In Lloyd’s febrile production of Doctor Faustus. Kit (Game of Thrones) Harington, often in underpants, gets lots of time to show his chest, a minute or two to flash his bum and only one spell at the end to suggest undoubted acting talent. Colin Teevan replaces Marlowe’s unappetising middle section with some incoherent satire. The stage gibbers with spirits writhing around in grubby knickers. Jenna Russell is an acid, wheedling Mephistopheles, who provides an uplifting rendition of Bat out of Hell. Lucifer has a noisy time on the lavatory. And passes off his poo as a truffle. Is this intended as a metaphor?”

Susannah Clapp, The Observer

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STAR RATING The Daily Telegraph

“Game of Thrones’s Kit Harington fails to save this dismal rehash from damnation”

[Harington] looks great in this Marlowe revival, but his delivery is stubbornly earthbound, and the production verges on being totally incomprehensible”

“there’s little that’s intrinsically right about Jamie Lloyd’s revival, which has mystifyingly plumped for a modish version by Colin Teevan that was borderline forgettable when it premiered in Leeds three years ago and verges on being totally incomprehensible in this dismally conceived rehash.”

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“Kit Harington is agile and energetic in this unapologetically messy take on Christopher Marlowe’s classic play. He doesn’t always make perfect sense of the passionate Elizabethan verse, but he has an undeniable presence.”

“Lloyd and Teevan are astute about today’s slavish fixation with celebrity, yet the result feels like an exercise in bombarding us with toxic images. Harington’s fans will savour his performance’s mercurial physicality. But for fans of the original Doctor Faustus, it’ll seem to be a case of less Marlowe and more Marloverkill.”

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING The Stage

“Brash, bold, and very messy modern mash-up of Marlowe”

“the production sometimes strains to make Marlowe’s own riff on the medieval morality play relevant, it’s definitely going to get people talking. Half-hellmouth, half-klaxon, this is attention-grabbing theatre”

“Lloyd’s visual sense remains impeccable. He’s a master of composition, his tableaux referencing everything from Hieronymus Bosch to Brian de Palma, with a few by now obligatory nods to Japanese horror, while Soutra Gilmour’s murky design presents us not just with hell’s kitchen but hell’s khazi too.”

Natasha Tripney, The Stage

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