Playwright Chris Bush has developed a radical retelling of Christopher Marlowe’s 500-year-old tragedy. Faustus: That Damned Woman is the first work created as part of Headlong and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre’s long-term commitment to commissioning and producing work of scale by women playwrights.
Faustus is now no longer an ambitious young man who sells his soul to the devil… she’s now a woman, using the power bestowed on her to travel to the future and challenge the course of history. Having not seen the original, and unlikely to see the new version either, I can’t say how different the two pieces will be but on face value they seem completely different tales altogether. If “radical retelling” basically means a full rewrite, I’m not sure how much you can hang your hat on it being a “retelling”.
Jodie McNee plays Johanna Faustus. She says she was particularly drawn to her character’s strength of purpose: “She’s a woman at the bottom of society with absolutely no power, but I love the fight of her. She needs to change things but she has no opportunity, no education and doesn’t know how. When the devil speaks to her, it’s the first time she’s been asked what she wants.”
Jodie has taken on a role originally written for a man before as she played Rosencrantz in Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at Manchester’s Royal Court in 2014.
I’m not sure whether it would be more productive to write new, exciting pieces featuring strong women rather than trying to rewrite old pieces and tear up the rulebook. But, hey, it’s certainly going to be controversial.
Catch the show at Leeds Playhouse from 24th – 28th March.