Review – Faust, Young Vic

This started badly. Set in an old folks home in (presumably) Iceland at Christmas, it looks for five horrifying minutes like it’s just going to be some old guy in a dressing gown reading out the whole of a pretty average translation of Goethe’s Faust in a (presumably) Icelandic accent.

But then it all kicks off, and turns into the sort of thing that Health and Safety officers must wake up in the middle of the night screaming about.

The Young Vic (now with gloriously un-unreserved seating) is transformed into a hellish circus space in which the action takes place in front and, more often than not, above you.

The stagecraft here is highly theatrical rather than magical – the wires are meant to show and they do – but there’s no doubting the impact. There are some truly spectacular moments.

The plot too feels like it has been subsumed below the quest for boundary-pushing form, but that doesn’t matter too much – there are dozens of productions a year which tell the story of Faust in a workaday fashion, and that’s not the point here.

The point here is really a radical reinvention of both the story and the conventions of theatre. In the end it is the latter that’s most memorable, but it is pretty memorable indeed.

PS. May I humbly recommend choosing the stalls over the circle?

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