Entertainment & Arts

Doctor Faustus: Critics divided over Game of Thrones star's stage return

Kit Harington in Doctor Faustus Image copyright Marc Brenner
Image caption Kit Harington in Doctor Faustus

Game of Thrones star Kit Harington has returned to the West End stage in a play that gives a modern twist to 16th Century drama Doctor Faustus.

Directed by Jamie Lloyd, the reworking of Christopher Marlowe's play features two new acts by Colin Teevan.

One sees Faustus become a Las Vegas illusionist after he sells his soul to the Devil.

The audience at Monday's gala opening included fellow Game of Thrones actors Alfie Allen and Natalie Dormer.

This is Harington's first stage role since he appeared in the original production of Laura Wade's Posh at the Royal Court in 2010.

In January, the actor told the BBC how he was learning the art of stage illusion for his role.

Here's a round-up of what the critics thought:

The Times - Anne Treneman (4*)

You are warned that you are about to see adult material, scenes of a sexual nature, nudity, loud music, smoke, fog and, yes, "bangs". I guess they just forget to mention the rest, which includes a scene in which Kit Harington's rather stylish underpants are turned blood red in the shower. Ladies, you have been warned...

It's all wildly OTT but I must admit I rather liked it.

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The Stage - Natasha Tripney (3*)

This is a very busy production; it's cacophonous and fidgety, occasionally ingenious, often absurd. It never shuts up…

There are an awful lot of bodily fluids. Blood but also spittle, spatter and leakage. Mouths froth. Wounds ooze. Amid all this, Harington is nothing if not game. He drools and moons. He spends a lot of time on stage in his pants.

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The Telegraph - Dominic Cavendish (2*)

The Game of Thrones star looks great in this Marlowe revival but his delivery is stubbornly earthbound, and the production verges on being totally incomprehensible...

It says a lot that the most memorable moment of the night comes not with Faustus's midnight-hour finale, but when Jenna Russell's melancholy Mephistopheles gives a tongue-in-cheek rendition of Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell after the interval. Anyone sensible would have got the hell out before that.

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Whatsonstage.com - Holly Williams (2*)

Doctor Faustus was meant to work like magic: hot actor, hot ticket. Instead, it's just a hot mess.

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The Guardian - Michael Billington (2*)

The lead actor acquits himself well in the circumstances. Given that he is obliged to bare his buttocks and parade in bloodied boxer shorts, I was tempted to dub him "off-with-your-kit Harington". But he is much more than a TV icon and, when the production allows him, he gives us a sense of Faustus's flailing despair: I'd certainly like to see him venture further into classical theatre.

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Hollywood reporter - Leslie Felperin

However much prolific director Jamie Lloyd and playwright Colin Teevan may have tinkered with Christopher Marlowe's 16th-Century text, at least one thing is certain: Faustus is going to hell.

But even if the last act can't be spoiled, there are still some pleasant surprises to be had from this lively, lusty and irreverent production, which takes aim at celebrity culture, religion, Pope Francis, David Cameron and Barack Obama alike.

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Variety - Matt Trueman

Lloyd is bringing a new generation to the theatre, and deserves credit for that. This is theatre you Blu-Tack to your bedroom walls; Marlowe as a two-hour music video.

The flip side is superficiality, and it often feels as though Lloyd isn't chasing down ideas so much as dressing them up. At best, it's a head rush; at worst, a headache - a jumble of depression and suicide, celebrity cults and internet culture that means this Faustus fails to cohere.

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Doctor Faustus is at the Duke of York's Theatre until 25 June.

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