Page last updated at 21:51 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 22:51 UK

Faust finds the devil in us all

By Angie Brown
Edinburgh reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Silviu Purcarete's Faust
Faustus is taken into a world of temptation in Silviu Purcarete's Faust

If you held a mirror up to a festival audience you would probably see a bit of Faustus in everyone.

Not that they want to make a deal with the devil but in their thirst for knowledge and constant striving to see something bigger and better.

I am sure many would have sacrificed something for their ticket to see Silviu Purcarete's production of Faust, showing as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

On the opening night of the Goethe adaptation of the classic German legend many had travelled from far and wide to see the production.

With a cast of more than 100 actors, fire-breathing, huge sets, fireworks, unusual costumes and make-up, theatre-goers have been clamouring to snap up tickets for this hugely anticipated two-hour extravaganza.

It is performed amid a huge hall at The Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Faustus realizes that man cannot know everything about life

The first visual assault came when a huge white sheet dropped to the floor to reveal a vast and very bleak schoolroom full of crumpled newspaper and white-faced pupils.

Thundering footsteps broke up the quiet monologue between God and the devil, which is shown in subtitles on huge screens, and Faust is seen in his turmoil over his attempts to understand the deepest mysteries of the universe.

On the brink of despair, he considers suicide but he is distracted from drinking a vial of poison.

Apart from a black dog, which is momentarily on stage, it was very bleak and sparse as Faust talked to a skull, drawing inspiration from Shakespeare, and I longed to be taken into hell.

Suddenly pig-headed men were ushering the 500-strong crowd out of our seats and beckoning us through to the other side of the Lowland Hall.

The excitement brought on by curiosity was palpable and we were about to be met with a visual and audible assault, which was the highlight of the production by Theatre Radu Stanca of Sibu.

I was really surprised because there were things put into my mind that I hadn't thought of but I really enjoyed it
Elaine Osborne
Audience member from Surrey

Mephistopheles was raging in full flame-coloured wig and high-heeled boots as she strutted bare-chested and covered in red body paint amid the melee of performers.

There were dozens of TV screens showing moving Faust heads and large pictures on the walls, all to the thumping contemporary beat of a live band, which was perched on top of a scaffolding tower.

Forklift trucks, driven by semi-clad men, carried dangling women, and others were whirled round and round on a huge contraption.

A huge watermelon was smashed on to the middle of a moving set and a fire-breather added to the frenzy while women frolicked with life-size model pigs in a scene of bestiality.

I was left wanting more of hell as we were led back to our seats after about 15 minutes.

Simon Hart, 48, an arts administrator from Aberdeen, who was sitting beside me, said: "It was magical, really brilliant and I loved the promenade aspect of it.

Ofelia Popii as Mephistopheles
Mephistopheles shows Faust the pleasures of life

"It was very text based, very visual, so brilliant in size and vision."

Elaine Osborne, 65, a retired textiles teacher from Surrey, said: "I was really surprised because there were things put into my mind that I hadn't thought of but I really enjoyed it.

"It was a beautiful performance and I loved hell in the other room as it was something different and the beat of the music was great."

Elizabeth Cobbe, 23, a student from London, said she was inspired by the huge set.

She said: "I had no idea of the scale of the set beforehand, so it was a huge surprise."

The production's director said: "I tried to be as faithful as possible to the vision of Goethe, who is extremely spectacular and theatrical.

"I hope the audience should like it, we don't have other aims but to make the audience satisfied by the time spent in the performance.

"I want to create theatrical emotions. There is intellectual emotion, aesthetical emotion and all that is part of theatrical emotion."

Ofelia Popii, who plays Mephistopheles, said: "It is always exciting to find out more and more with each performance because it is so huge, deep and profound.

"Every time we perform it, it is like I discover more and more, so it is very interesting for me.

"I hope it will be touching. That was most important for me."

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