Doctor Faustus: The Imaginarium, The Happy Cell, Hove, until May 27, call 01273 917272 (From The Argus)
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Doctor Faustus: The Imaginarium, The Happy Cell, Hove, until May 27, call 01273 917272
Brighton’s Tanglehead Productions won an Audience Choice Award for their debut at last year’s Fringe, a site-specific version of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest at this alternative health centre.
This year’s effort returns to last year’s venue with Christopher Marlowe’s 1604 play about the doctor who sells his soul to the devil for 24 years of fame, power and knowledge. Similar to the group’s debut, Dr Faustus: The Imaginarium uses the building’s multi-floor layout of near-identical rooms, this time to represent over two halves the slow descent into hell of our proud protagonist.
The first half represents young Faustus as he makes his pact while railing against organised religion in an arrogant and sexual frenzy. Played by Jason Kennedy as the ultimate angry young man, he is introduced to the pleasures of the flesh and the seven deadly sins, as a kind of S&M orgy (complete with burlesque star Honour Mission) plays out. Though slightly too shouty without subtlety (some ill-judged buffoonery merely annoys), black humour and the excellent Gordon Winter as deal-breaking demon Mephistopheles usher things along nicely.
The second half, though, is when Tanglehead’s show really comes into its own. The older Faustus (Mike Rawlings) has a gift for dark looks, a cocky Clockwork Orange swagger and gleeful mocking of religion. His double-act with Winter is a particular highlight. Combined with Rikki Tarascas’s haunting direction of ghostly entities and an equally haunting guitar and drum score, events build to a gripping, emotional climax worth the ticket price alone.