Kit Harington stars in a modernised in-your-face version of Doctor Faustus at the Duke Of York's Theatre, in which he sells his soul for celebrity. Yes, the blood was sometimes over the top but this production is an engaging, contemporary take on the Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe play.
Making the protagonist want to be a celebrity magician might appeal to a younger crowd, although it did seem a trivial ambition to me, given the price he has to pay. There was another price, the cost of a coherent plot. Then again, perhaps the young brains coped better than mine.
Jamie Lloyd's production was gory, sexual, violent, disgusting and many other things designed to shock but much of it worked. What I liked best was that the Devil and his disciples were so lacking in glamour or sexiness. Some had saggy bodies and all were dressed in grubby underwear. Their dancing would shame dads at a party. It made Faustus' blindness to any consequences of his deal with the Devil even more clear.
Soutra Gilmour's grey set, revealing the drab backstage of the theatre, reinforced this sense of the hellish emptiness of celebrity.
Anyone expecting to be titillated by the nudity is likely to be disappointed. Early on we see full frontal nudity but, as it suggests Adam and Eve and the original sin of the first human beings to be tempted by the Devil, it is the opposite of sexual. The only other flesh revealed in any quantity is Harington's when Kit gets most of his kit off in the second act. He has a great body but the naked flesh reminds us of the earlier scene and suggests vulnerability rather than sexuality.
Some people have suggested Kit Harington only got the lead because of his success on TV as Jon Snow in Game Of Thrones. That's as may be but he was actually good. He spoke the Elizabethan poetry well and offered a convincing portrayal of Faustus' ego and anguish, although I have to say I wasn't ultimately moved by it.
Jenna Russell damn near stole the show as Mephistopheles. She was world weary and sarcastic and exuded an inner sadness- and she's a good singer, as people who stayed in their seats during the interval discovered.
Doctor Faustus is at Duke Of York's Theatre until 25 June.