Faust/us

Here is another show which does not make a great first impression. A man lies onstage, wrapped in cloth, covered in the magnetic tape from a large cassette, while ‘Que Sera Sera’ plays over the speakers. Two circles of projector screen play an introduction, beginning with a versified discussion of putting on a show at the Fringe, moving into an opening dialogue between God and the Devil.The projections are cute; well shot, drawn and edited. Visually nice. The verse, however, is just a bit too knowing and self-referential at such an early stage, and the rhymes are poorly delivered. The voice of Satan is rather good, but the Lord himself is simply too weak to add to the effect. I was prepared, in short, for another rather lacklustre performance.Lustre, in fact, is really not something Faust/us lacks. The energy of the show’s single performer is remarkable, twitching and writhing his way through a series of supernatural experiences with full bodily contortions and muscular spasms. All of this is backed up by a genuinely interesting series of technical decisions. He must mouth the words of Mephistopheles, by whom the white-coated scientist Faustus is in this production possessed, while Latin and other incantations or poems are read over a speaker, with heavy use of vocoders. His friends he speaks to by telephone, and receives their responses by voice message. Some of these and other devices are arguably superfluous, and are perhaps the product of a company dealing with the curse of a well-known play. The visuals, however, and the sound effects, more than justify themselves, with some lovely pieces of faux shadow puppetry and light-art which combines dynamic images with the movement of the performer. A moment in which Faustus is bound by projected chains is particularly striking, although it is admittedly rivalled by a low-tech scene in which he tears his white coat to form the wings with which his damned soul tries vainly to escape the jaws of hell.This is really a two-hander; it is as much a son et lumiere event as a performance, and half the cues, at least, are for the technician, who plays his part perfectly. Rarely have I seen such clear, clean synchronisation of performance and effects, and where there is slippage, as is absolutely inevitable, the performer simply waits, patiently and professionally, holding his audience, for the fault to be sorted. A lesson to us all.In the end, this is a fascinating, visually and physically powerful piece, and a real success.

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The Blurb

The tragic history of Doctor Faustus, notorious magician and necromancer. World premiere of innovative new solo version of the classic tale of a man who sold his soul. Fusing animation, mixed media and physical theatre. Join us. www.dbs-productions.co.uk

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