Young Vic, London SE1
Opened 18 March, 2002

*** Jude Law is solid but unexceptional in the title role

David Lan's seven-strong cast play the drama big in the style of mediaeval morality plays, and it works fine as far as it goes.

The appearance of screen idol Law on stage is enough to guarantee a sell-out. His bearded young Faustus gets the story across, and the largely futile playfulness of all that Faustus does with the powers he gains from selling his soul to Lucifer, but this is not a production much concerned with in-depth examination.

The exception is Richard McCabe, an actor who deserves much wider recognition, as Faustus's demonic ally Mephistophilis. McCabe is especially skilled at blending quiet intelligence with black humour, and this performance is no exception. Although Faustus gets the big final-act speech of agony as his allotted time expires, and even takes the role of Pride in an earlier masque of the Seven Deadly Sins to make the point explicit, it is McCabe's Mephistophilis who conveys the agony of damnation far more economically, especially in his "Why, this is hell..." speech.

For the rest, Lan and his cast provide enough japes to keep the audience of big-name-collectors tittering, sometimes even at inappropriate moments. But it doesn't really get to grips with the programme notes's point that the play contains the first deep psychological studies in post-mediaeval drama.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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