When it comes to adapting or modernising a piece of classical theatre, I feel as though something recognisable from the original should remain. However, this musical adaptation of Marlowe’s tragedy, borrows nothing from its original source material except the name of it’s main character.
We are transported to a modern day setting, with Faustus now a woman working on a cure for a rare heart condition, which incidentally killed her girlfriend. Haunted by Beth, the only patient she could not save, Emma Faustus is propositioned by mysterious businesswoman Mephistopheles: work for her shiny, shady company, do not ask questions, and gain access to futuristic medical technology as a reward. The show then gets lost as it wanders into science fiction territory; the company boast that this production is about science, not magic, and yet there are suddenly mind-wiping spheres and human cloning trials.
Removing so much from the core of the original (the tension between religion and science, the concept of free will) renders this production empty and directionless. Faustus is interpreted here as desperate and looking out for the greater good, as opposed to being the cruel and greedy character Marlowe presents. The battle of wits between mortals and gods is also non-existent, and so the audience loses any exploration of the relationship between Mephistopheles and Faustus, and in general their character development suffers. The thrill of the original comes from watching Faustus foolishly attempt to defy God, and being destroyed by his own selfishness. Here, Faustus is meant to be sympathetic, and does not even sell her soul. There is no concept of a threat if she decides to resign from the position Mephistopheles employs her in, everything is left vague and frustrating, and as a result I am left unsure why I should care, and bored. The end solution, to just get over heartbreak just like everyone else has to do at some point, is predictable and cheesy, but not in the heart-rendering, soul-affirming Disney way.
Performed by a cast of undoubtedly talented young people, Doctor Faustus is more of an opera than a musical, with performers singing their every thoughts and conversations throughout without any regular dialogue. While the singing talent is apparent, and would flourish with a better script and musical direction, the sudden changes in music in terms of genre and pace are unyielding and clash, jumping from wierdly 90s RnB to string sections. There is not a chance to pause to reflect on the drama, characters have solo numbers that seem to only exist to pad the run time, and it generally feels syncopated.
In all, the cast full of promise, however the plot drags and becomes confused as it progresses, and in its rush to get to the end, misses crucial moments for genuine character growth or moving moments.