Doctor Faustus is a new rock musical from Tiger House Theatre based on Christopher Marlowe’s work of the same name. The original play has been heavily adapted, but with a clever script and stunning vocals, it really does work. The show is funny and uplifting, but also desperately, heart-achingly human.
In this modern twist, Dr Emma Faustus works in a pharmaceutical company, and is obsessed with finding a cure for the little-known Valdes’ disease. We soon learn that she is pushed not by her own selfish ambition but by the personal tragedy of her past.
The Augustine church venue is transformed with a stark, clinical-looking set into a pharmaceutical laboratory and Faustus’ home. There are no set changes, and props and costumes are minimal – so the focus is less on each different location, and more on the characters’ emotions and the world within Dr Faustus’ head.
The musical is wonderfully written. There are some weak rhymes and squashed syllables, but on the whole the adapted plot is clever and flows well, with a few songs that really stand out. The character of Johnny in particular is excellent, and is a source of hilarity with his comments and a fantastic solo. The soft-rock music links well with the plot and emotions of the characters – the only fault is that at times it is a little too loud or abrasive and drowns out the actors.
The acting is good, with some minor slip-ups in accent changes and Faustus’ boss mumbling a bit too much. The character of Beth brings a vibrant energy to the show, and there are some really wonderful dance routines. It’s a nice balance of funny and uplifting songs and choreography and the raw tragedy brought on by Dr Faustus’ grief.
This ambitious new take on Marlowe’s work retains the dark themes and otherworldliness of the original, with Mephistopheles and the bargain she brings to Faustus. It also adds both heart-breaking grief and lighter modern humour. It's funny, raw and powerful, and performed with energy and impressive vocal talent.