Faustus: That Damned Woman review by Emilia Antoniadou

A destiny signed by blood as hellfire longs for her never-ending torment.

A Headlong and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre co-production in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

After premiering at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in January 2020, Birmingham Repertory Theatre welcomed Faustus: That Damned Woman, on the 26th of February with scheduled performances until the 7th of March.

Award winning playwright, Chris Bush (Standing at the Sky’s Edge and Steel, Sheffield Crucible Theatre; The Assassination of Katie Hopkins, Theatr Clwyd; Pericles, National Theatre) resurrects the old folk legend of Faustus, re-creating the original story with a feministic approach, mostly influenced by the modern era and its current societies.

The demonic compelling tale is told from a female perspective, inverting its protagonist’s true gender, as Bush willingly places Faustus’ damned soul into a female body. She is most definitely not the first to have visualized Faustus as a woman, but from the few that have attempted to do so successfully over the centuries.

Faustus has suffered all her life. Exhausted by her humanity, trapped inside the limits of her morality, and continuously having been tortured by the demons of her past

Mostly inspired by the works of Marlowe, who focused on the dangers of temptation, and Goethe, who was concerned about the loss of spiritual world, Bush presents a play of hybrid nature with some additional features to it, resulting to her own 21st century Faustian drama.

Her version of the story is about a young woman named Johanna Faustus, born in the 17th century, London. She has lived most of her life with her father, a plague doctor, after her herbalist mother was accused and killed for witchcraft, when she was just a little girl.

Faustus has suffered all her life. Exhausted by her humanity, trapped inside the limits of her morality, and continuously having been tortured by the demons of her past…she desperately seeks for a change, a new opportunity…

God’s abandonment of her mum lead her to reject religion. Driven by her unfulfilled desires and lustful appetite for greatness, she walks through the path of the occult, only to reach the gates of hell and meet the Master himself. Johanna decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and strikes a deal with the devil, condemning her own soul to eternal damnation in return to revenge her mother’s death, and have complete freedom to control her own destiny. Lucifer agrees and also offers her the services of one of his demons, Mephistopheles, to provide her with all the devilish of entertainment, forbidden knowledge and unlimited powers…but pride comes before the fall…was it worth it after all?

The play is a glimpse of how today’s societies treat all those women who pursue greatness, striving to achieve the ‘’impossible’’ against all odds in a world designed for men.

Caroline Byrne (Spring Awakening, Young Vic; Oliver Twist, Regents Park; Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s Globe) has brilliantly executed her part with her distinctive direction, and it is clear how her limitless imagination strikes on stage as the narrative unfolds. From the earthly crafted setting and an atmosphere with the smell of Black Death, to manipulating the lights so delicately allowing time traveling and change of dimensions to take place so naturally.

Jodie McNee as Johanna Faustus surrendered her soul on stage. Her performance was outstanding, emotionally charged and extremely intense, showing her remarkable acting skills as she was constantly in transformation. As for Danny Lee Wynter, his Mephistopheles was so refreshing and fun to watch, a demon dressed in shades of white with elegant clothing matched with pearled jewellery. His portrayal of the demon was surprisingly entertaining, embodying the character so well that it almost felt that he was possessed by Mephistopheles’ spirit itself.

Faustus: That Damned Woman, is a play that will lock you into its narrative, where time will pause, and you won’t be able to escape it. The two protagonists will force you to follow them on their journey, while being exposed to all the horrors that Faustus is experiencing…terrifying but thrilling in its own unique way!

A few words from the creative team…

Chris Bush / Playwright

Inserting a woman into a traditionally male narrative complicates things.

It creates more edges and obstacles

Caroline Byrne / Director

Despite its darkness, it’s very hopeful. It’s about legacy, it’s about living in a fearless way and facing death

Jodie McNee / Johanna Faustus

Every bit of this production is going into this woman’s psyche and seeing how she can use her skill and intelligence, and it’s how she navigates the obstacles in every time zone that she’s in

Cast List

  • Jodie McNee (Johanna Faustus)
  • Danny Lee Wynter (Mephistopheles)
  • Emmanuella Cole (Katherine/Dr.Garret/Isabel)
  • Katherine Carlton (Alice/Jenny/Cornelia)
  • Alicia Charles (Violet/Marie)
  • Barnaby Power (Father/Lucifer)
  • Tim Samuels (Newbury/Judge/Pierre)

Faustus: That Damned Woman will be touring the UK, with upcoming shows in Bristol, Leeds and Newcastle.

For more information on dates and tickets visit:

headlong.co.uk/productions/faustus-damned-woman/

References:

www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/faustus-that-damned-woman.html

Words by Emilia Antoniadou

TwitCount Button