Sorrows of Satan

The Sorrows of Satan is like an Oscar Wilde Doctor Faustus by way of meta-theatrical musical [Title of Show]. Like the latter, it’s a four-person musical comedy about the creation of a musical comedy. Geoffrey Tempest is premiering his new show, a reinterpretation of the classic boy-meets-Satan narrative, with the help of his patron Prince Lucio, the wealthy and attractive Lady Sybil and the tongueless pianist Amiel. But when the final rehearsal gets rocky, Geoffrey unwittingly makes his own Faustian bargain.

Dialogue is quick as a cheetah, sharp as a knife and clever as a Wilde comedy.

Also like [Title of Show], The Sorrows of Satan is hilarious. Dialogue is quick as a cheetah, sharp as a knife and clever as a Wilde comedy. The 20s setting creates a unique aesthetic: black and white set and costume, with splashes of gold on props and accessories. But it also flavours the writing with delicious relics of the past, or our image of it. If you believe, like I choose to, that the entirety of England’s past is composed of Jane Austen characters having entertaining tête-á-têtes, than this will ring true. Embedded in that classic comedy are jokes that are modern, quickly poking fun at their 2017 audience without losing that 1920s flair.

In the same way, it is meta-theatrical without being self-indulgent. In a case of art imitating art imitating life, the beats of the play that come up in rehearsal follow the arc of the actors’ plot and the shape of the play itself. For a less subtle example, they practice the “big end of act one number” just before the interval. Writers Luke Bateman and Michael Conley revel in leaning on their own jokes, but they never stop being entertaining, and it shapes the piece in a way that is clever and fun.

The big question in this musical is the music. Every song, I recall, made me chortle, but I can’t remember any of the melodies. An argument can be made that if I laughed, the song has done its job, but The Book of Mormon, playing just blocks away, shows that music can be both “funny” and “good”. That, and a weaker 2nd half (hurt by the replacement of one character by a less charming version) leave the play a great accomplishment, but not a wholly unreserved one.

Stand-out cast member is a toss up between Claire-Marie Hall (Lady Sybil) and Dale Rapley (Prince Lucio). Hall is statuesque and opinionated, delivering biting remarks through a gleaming smile, while Rapley is the picture of self-assurance, hilariously unapologetic at his best and worst. Simon Willmont (Geoffrey Tempest) the, relatively, straight man of the cast, is reminiscent of a British Elijah Wood. He is funniest when expressing his shock and confusion at the actions revolving around him.

Conley and Bateman, along with director Adam Lenson, understand that the continuing appeal of the Faust story isn’t in resisting temptation, but in succumbing to it. The Sorrows of Satan loves to be sinful, and its joyous depiction of moral failure, is a theatrical success. 

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The Blurb

This sizzling new show is filled with the classic combination of music, mirth and murder. Inspired by Marie Corelli’s scorching bestseller, The Sorrows of Satan reimagines Faust as a drawing-room comedy.

In 1920s London, a down-on-his luck playwright accepts an offer of a luxurious reading of his new musical play. When he meets his benefactor it becomes apparent that the only way to get the show on is by adding bouncy tunes, bawdy jokes and cutting the boring, meaningful bits. After all audiences don't want art, they want entertainment. Don't they?

Will the playwright decide to hold on to his artistic integrity (for what it’s worth) or sell out for the promise of fame, money and the love of his leading lady?

The Sorrows of Satan is a hot new musical play written by Luke Bateman (Mr Popper's Penguins, The Little Beasts) & Michael Conley (The Little Beasts, The Superhero). Directed by Adam Lenson (Songs For A New World, See What I Wanna See)