Dark, thrilling and unsettling adaptation of Goethe’s classic
This article is from 2009.
Surely one of the Edinburgh International Festival’s most ambitious projects, Silviu Purcarete’s grand adaptation of Faust takes over, and fills, the huge warehouse space at Ingleston’s Royal Highland Centre. Based on Goethe’s treatment of the German legend in which Faust (Ilie Gheorghe) trades his soul for knowledge and experience. In this version it’s a shadowy dance with the Devil brought to magnificent life by the National Theatre ‘Radu Stanca’ Sibiu.
Helmut Stürmer’s set is ingenious and elegantly simple as trapdoors open and sections roll away, the atmosphere perfectly complemented by Lia Man_oc’s grimy costumes. The bleak staging absorbs elements of contemporary culture with laptops, shredded newspapers and flickering TV screens, stylistically evocative of dark sci-fi and Japanese horror (such as 1984 or Ringu), bringing the story into the modern world.
The most impressive set piece is when the audience are ushered from their seats and brought into hell, as the huge cast skitter, cavort and writhe; blood is spilled, fireworks explode and unnatural acts are committed with beasts of the field. It’s a macabre circus of unearthly delights, pure Grand Guignol: visceral and genuinely unsettling.
Gheorghe is fantastic as the titular Faust but it is Ofelia Popii as the malicious and mischievous Mephistopheles who is utterly spellbinding. Small wonder she was awarded the UNITER (Romanian Theatre Union) Award for Best Actress for the role last year.
A dark, thrilling and exciting experience.
Lowland Hall, Ingliston, 473 2000, until 22 Aug, 7.30pm, £20.