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faustus: that damned woman artwork

all about theatre 5 star review

I was kindly invited to the Storyhouse in Chester for the press night of Faustus That Damned Woman. I was excited to see the show as I had heard that it was quite dark, so was intrigued to see what it had to offer.

The play is based on Christpher Marlow's Doctor Faustus and has been adapted by Chris Bush & directed by Francesca Goodridge. It is a co-production between Storyhouse and fallen angels dance theatre, fallen angels create productions with people in recovery from addiction. Though the shows development recovery dancers from fallen angels explored and created movement with the actors who performed in Faustus.

production shot from fausus: that damned woman at storyhouse chester

The play is a reimagining of the legend of Faustus which tells of a man who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. In this retelling Faustus is a seventeenth century woman called Johanna (Olivia Sweeney )who lives in London. The play begins with Johanna's mother being tortured and hung for witchcraft, it is this which causes Johanna to seek out the Devil (Mathew Romain) as she is desperate to find out if her mother was taken by him and also to seek revenge on those who had taken her mother away from her. Johanna makes a packed with the Devil signing her name in his book giving him her soul, in exchange she gets 144 years of youth, the ability to move forwards in time and Mephistopheles as her servant meaning she can use his god like powers as she pleases.

Johanna however plans to defy the Devil by using the power she has been given to do good.

Johanna whilst moving through time takes it upon herself to lean as much as she can, hoping to use science and technology to trick the Devil and find a way to live on without a soul.

The play shows that even though Johanna had great power there were limits to what she could do with it due to how women have been seen and treated by society throughout the ages. This play deals with some dark content including addiction, self harm, violence and hanging.

production shot from fausus: that damned woman at storyhouse chester

The stage was in a thrust position for this show making the performance seem intimate as you are much closer to the action. The staging and set design was quite simple but effective, it had what looked like tree roots hanging from the ceiling making the stage look quite creepy and eery. Although the set was quite simple props, lighting as well as water and fire were all used with great effect. The play did use some great atmospheric music throughout the show which really help to set the scene.

production shot from fausus: that damned woman at storyhouse chester

The cast for this show was amazing and all gave superb performances, their use of physical theatre was excellent and helped to tell the story through physical movement. The character of Mephistopheles is a fallen angel so has the ability to change appearance, this allowed the character to be portrayed by multiple cast members all of which delivered a dark and gritty performance. Miriam O' Brien's take on Mephistopheles stood out for me as she was able to bring out the more numerous side of the character. The stand out performance of the night for me has to be Olivia Sweeney at the lead character Johanna Faustus who played the character so convincingly with such passion and conviction.

I thought the play overall was excellent, not something I would have thought to go and see but so glad I did it was definitely one of the best plays I have seen and I easily give the show 4 stars.

Photo Credit - Mark McNulty

Tickets & More Info - FAUSTUS: That Damned Woman

*Our tickets for this show were kindly gifted in exchange for an honest review


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