facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

Faustus

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 22 April 2008

Does taking an old, much-respected work of art and creating something new with it constitute vandalism and detract from the original work, or is it a reinvigoration of the art, recreating the vitality it originally had? The question is central to the Headlong (formerly Oxford Stage Company) production of Faustus currently playing at Hampstead, which combines Marlowe’s original work, with a new plot involving Brit Art stalwarts Jake and Dinos Chapman. Matthew Amer pondered the artistic conundrum at the press night…

In 16th century Germany, John Faustus is bored with his lot in life. Law, medicine, divinity; none of them can give him the power and carnal pleasures he so longs for. The dark arts can, and with ease he summons Mephistopheles – a slinky, animalistic and unnatural Jake Maskall – a whispering devil in his ear who can offer him the wonders of the world in return for his everlasting soul.

Back in 21st century London the Chapman brothers have bought Goya’s violent The Disasters Of War etchings and are about to ‘rectify’ them by painting clowns’ faces over the heads of their subjects.

The production’s first half switches between Faustus’s dark, candlelit, book-filled study and the clean, bright white studio of the Chapmans; Laura Hopkins’s set folds in and out on itself as if by using Faustus’s dark arts.

The second half sees everything merge into one. The linear nature of time is loosened and imagery slips between the two stories; Faustus’s tour of hell is staged at the opening of the Chapman’s 2000 piece Hell, art works come alive and monks become punters. Yet the two distinct strands of story are never lost.

Stephen Noonan and Jonjo O’Neill are stone-faced as the Chapmans’, bringing the driest of humour to two very serious characters, and Scott Handy revels in Marlowe’s language as the ambitious yet frightened Faustus. The show is almost stolen, though, by Mark Lockyer, playing a posing, preening, pretentious BBC art critic who brings a little satirical relief to the play’s building tension.

Among the classic and the new, the clever lighting from Malcolm Rippeth – which includes a scene set in Martin Creed’s 2001 Turner Prize-winning art installation The Lights Going On And Off – and Adam Cork’s ever-ominous score, the question lurks question: have Rupert Goold and Ben Power, by adapting Marlowe’s Faustus, done exactly the same as the Chapmans are threatening to do to the Goya? And if they have, is it right or wrong?

Like the Chapmans’ work, Faustus asks more questions than it has answers for.

MA

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.