In Review

Kit Harington in Dr Faustus: From Jon Snow to 'wanton hell'

Game of Thrones star's 'gross-out' show divides critics but wins praise for bringing younger audiences to the theatre

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Watching the West End's latest retelling of Doctor Faustus, starring Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington, has been compared to wading through a "theatrical sewer" by critics.

Directed by Jamie Lloyd, the play at London's The Duke of York's Theatre is a modern reworking of Christopher Marlowe's classic morality tale about a doctor of philosophy who sells his soul to the devil in return for special powers. In this adaptation by Colin Teevan, the doctor (Harington) now aspires to be a rock star magician in Las Vegas.

It is the actor's first stage role since he was cast in the original production of Laura Wade's Posh at the Royal Court in 2010 and comes as Game of Thrones fans are desperate to know whether his Game of Thrones character, Jon Snow, is truly dead.

But critics have not been particularly kind.

The best thing about Harington's West End return might be his "bare bottom", which thrilled fans, says Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail. "But it's a gimmick designed more to titillate than illuminate a theatrical classic."

Marmion admits that Harington does throw himself into the role enthusiastically, pouring beer over his head and repeatedly breaking into air guitar solos. But he complains that the audience is "forced to wade through a theatrical sewer to join him on his journey", which "turns an ancient morality tale into a zombie apocalypse with the naked, swivel-eyed undead spewing black yoghurt".

Harington looks great, but he can't save this dismal rehash from damnation, says Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph. This "hip but slack" rewrite "verges on being totally incomprehensible".

"His delivery is earthbound," adds Cavendish, while "the production goes for broke with gross-out images (excrement is served up like a canape at one point) and graphic content (simulated ravishments) that make this a no-no for school parties".

Harington is a perfectly good actor who will guarantee a young audience, but what they will see is a "Marlovian mish-mash" with lashing of sex and violence, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. Billington says Harington acquits himself well in the circumstances, but he was tempted to dub him "off-with-your-kit Harington" after he bared his buttocks and paraded in bloodied boxer shorts.

It's all "wildly OTT", says Ann Treneman in The Times, but she "rather liked it". Lloyd creates a "lecherous and depraved atmosphere of wanton hell", adds the critic, who says some of the celebrity jokes made her laugh out loud. And the audience was full of twenty-somethings, she adds, which is "not a bad thing either".

Matt Trueman in Variety says Lloyd deserves credit for "bringing a new generation to the theatre".

The director admits the jumble of depression, suicide, celebrity cults and internet culture fails to cohere, but says we should think of it as "theatre you Blu-Tack to your bedroom walls" - or "Marlowe as a two-hour music video".

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