Skip to main content

Doctor Faustus

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Four stars

The dressing up box sitting at one end of the Kibble Palace is telling about the latest venture put together for the fifteenth anniversary season of Bard in the Botanics. As a clock ticks behind it, here, after all, is the laid out apparel of dress to impress immortality designed for a life destined to be unlived.

After remaining monogamous to Shakespeare's collected works for so long, the Bard in the Botanics company have been tempted by his contemporaries for a new strand dubbed Writing the Renaissance. If setting out its store with Christopher Marlowe's unhinged and altogether wilder play than most of Shakespeare's canon is a statement of intent, the future should be nothing if not lively.

This is especially the case if Jennifer Dick's relentless ninety minute adaptation for three actors is anything to go by. Here Adam Donaldson's bookish Faustus chalks pentagrams either side of a Pandora-like box that sits dead centre on the floor. With Ryan Ferrie's Good Angel sporting a bright blue suit embossed with gold leaf crucifixes at one end of the room, and Stephanie McGregor's gothic sprite Mephistopheles at the other, it is as close a physical approximation of devils and angels looming over Faustus' shoulders as one can get onstage.

As good and evil wrestle for Faustus' soul, a form of celestial cos-play takes place which, stripped back as it is in Dick's production, possesses an intimacy that looks increasingly like a tug of love, where hearts and minds as well as souls are up for grabs. This is accompanied by swathes of sonic sturm und drang, which comes in the form of amplified piano crashes and satanically inclined vocal distortions that could have been lifted from big screen schlock-fests involving massed teenage possessions.

Beyond such technical alchemy, it is McGregor's full range of emotional extremities that is most memorable here. Like a comic book super villainess, her face is a picture of low attention span contortions that flit between manic glee and unhinged fury in a heartbeat. Seen in close up in this way, such a series of facial tics makes for a fascinating reflection of Mephistopheles' tortured psyche. As her presence as demonic predator crumbles with Faustus' own demise, it is the final image of Mephistopheles that is most affecting, as she exits heartbroken, back in Hell once more.

The Herald, July 18th 2016

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Bdy_Prts

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Saturday December 2nd


It should probably come as no surprise that professional dancers are in the audience for the Edinburgh leg of this mini tour by spectral performance art/pop auteurs Bdy_Prts on the back of the release of their sublime debut album, The Invisible Hero. Beyond the music, the raison d’etre of Bdy_Prts’ dynamic duo of Jill O'Sullivan and Jenny Reeve, after all, is a flamboyantly costumed display of kinetic physical jerks and modernist shape-throwing to illustrate a set of fizzing machine-age chorales.

In this sense, the Bdy_Prts live experience is several works of art for the price of one that's a long way from the pair's formative work fronting Sparrow and the Workshop (O'Sullivan) and Strike the Colours (Reeve). Part living sculptures, part Bloomsbury Group super-heroines, part widescreen pop fabulists, O'Sullivan and Reeve paint their faces with ancient symbols and sport customised shoulder pads that look both seasonally …