Pros: A creative and accessible update of the classic Dr Faustus with a fantastic set and special effects. The gasps from the audience said it all.
Cons: The ‘use the dark power for good’ and ‘good triumphs over evil’ motifs might seem mildly naive, but it is the story that we all want to hear.
Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus is not necessarily the first play I’d think to ‘[re-imagine] for a modern world’, or a young audience for that matter. But then again, I do not hold the raw talent, or genius really, to re-write a classic play in blank verse using the vernacular to boot!
Dr Faustus is created in the image of teenage girl Hannah, craving popularity, adoration and fame while the devil’s advocate has been turned into her beloved pet lizard, Dave, appearing in human form. Similar-ish to the play’s source, the plot follows Hannah as she attempts to resist the charming temptations of her pet lizard man, who presents her with the opportunity to have her heart’s desire granted for the small price of her soul.
Forgoing the options of conjuring friends or celebrity and wealth, which overwhelm Hannah to the point of almost rejecting the whole deal altogether, Dave, driven by the need to finish ‘downloading’ Hannah’s soul, reels her back in with the option of doing good with her absolute power. Presenting Hannah with the world at her fingertips, and empowering her with grandiose thoughts of eradicating the world’s problems, Dave pushes Hannah to the brink of her own and the world’s destruction.
The script is cleverly and mind-bogglingly constructed in blank verse in an accessible form that makes the themes and morals clear for audiences young and old without being patronizing. Hannah’s wide-eyed, child-like awe and wonder, played convincingly by Kae Alexander, beautifully complement the audience’s own awe at the production’s wonderful tricks. Characters seemingly appear out of thin air without even a hint of bumbling in the dark to get to their mark. The magical projections by Andrzej Goulding placing Hannah at the top of the world, in a tropical paradise talking to a tortoise and in a war-torn country, are so animated you feel as if you were in a Pixar film.
While the story acknowledges the morals ‘be careful what you wish for’ and ‘all actions have their consequences’ in a way that is not too didactic, it nods to a contemplation of war that’s far too complex to be dealt with so quickly and superficially – larger things were being said without the time to say them properly. Having said this however, this is a skilful piece of writing that is at once funny, relatable and provocative – a high quality production for young audiences and their families that will certainly get conversation going around the dinner table. I’m sure that’s how Christopher Marlowe meant it to be.
Author: Chris Thorpe
Director: Simon Evans
Box Office: 020 7645 0560
Booking Link: https://www.unicorntheatre.com/hannah
Booking Until: 9th March 2014