Review: Doctor Faustus, Duke of York’s Theatre

Game of Thrones star Kit Harington brings Jamie Lloyd’s modern version of Christopher Marlowe’s classic to life in London’s West End.

It sure is a tricky task to take a world-famous piece of literature and reimagine it to fit the values we hold true today, and to reflect the current state of society. The Jamie Lloyd Company’s innovative production of Doctor Faustus at the Duke of York Theatre manages to do exactly that.

Here’s the low-down on the story: Faustus, a physics scholar, calls on the devil one night and makes a pact with him – in exchange for his soul, Faustus receives the ability to do absolutely anything he pleases, with the help of black magic. All seems to be going well for Faustus, as his life spins into celebrity stardom with worldwide tours, women at his disposal and rock’n’roll friends. When the time comes to cash in the soul, Faustus spirals into despair for just a few more days on earth. Over time, Mephistopheles becomes his companion, showing him every lush experience the world has to offer. The brilliant Jenna Russel portrays a complex and chilling assistant to the devil as Mephistopheles. She leaves an eerie awareness of how soul destroying it is to leave behind paradise in exchange for something we think we want.


The play is certainly not for the faint-hearted: blood, sex, drugs and all. But it may just be the right production to get a younger audience back into the theatre. Kit Harington’s strong stage presence as Faustus, alongside Mephistopheles, is intriguing to say the least. Marlowe’s 1592 play is based on the German legend of Faust, which was first printed in 1587. Throughout the many adaptations in different languages the base line stays the same. And with Jamie Lloyd’s newest adaptation in the West End, there are indeed parallels between the medieval yearning for the ability to perform magic and the modern strive for celebrity status.

However, unless you went to school in Germany where every single line of Goethe’s 1808 drama adaptation of the 16th century play is analysed in depth, you’ll need to pay close attention to what is being said. But let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like a bit of old English raging on a theatre stage, especially if they’re coming out of Kit Harington’s mouth.

Doctor Faustus is running for a limited season at the Duke Of York’s Theatre until 25 June 2016. Book your tickets now.