With its clinical, minimalist set design, icy synth soundscapes and central same-sex romance, this adaptation of the classic German legend is truly a musical of the future.
Tiger House Theatre was recently formed by writers Sarah Wright and John Paul, both Oxford University students. One of the duo's aims is to promote social change and so we're presented with a reasonably subversive love interest and some scathing attacks on the capitalist pharmaceutical industry.
Here, Emma Faustus is a top medical researcher working around the clock in the hope of discovering a cure for the condition that took her partner, Beth. Throughout the work, the deceased manifests herself to flirt with the bereaved and suggest that she move on with her life, but Emma is resolute. When her employers pull the plug on her research and deprive her of access to key lab facilities, in steps Mephistopheles to help achieve her goals and more besides.
While most musicals tend to pad out their song and dance numbers with straight dialogue, this narrative is told entirely through song – an impressive if also exhausting feat which allows for little variation in tone. With the more heated points of the story achieving levels of deafening, Meatloaf-esque bombast, the audience is given too few opportunities to rest and recuperate. This is an utterly relentless 75 minutes of patience-testing brilliance, and audience milleage will almost certainly vary.