Edinburgh Festival: Faustus and the Snakes (3 stars)

Breaking Bad meets the popular German legend in Cardiff University Drama Society’s imaginative retelling of the enduring tale.

Set against the backdrop of a nameless dodgy council estate, it follows a young chemist, Dr John Faustus, as he gives up a career in medicine in order to sell his soul to the devil by becoming a drug dealer. Mephistopheles is aptly renamed as Meth, and narcotics-fuelled hallucinations become the means by which reality and fantasy collide.

Winston Obi gives a compelling performance as the increasingly haunted “medicine man”, driven to extreme measures as he falls further and further into a grimy underworld of shooting up, knife crime and guns, but some of the supporting cast fail to make their characters believable in the same way.

The production relies upon gritty realism and more could be done to make this ring true. But there are some great references that anyone familiar with the fable will enjoy. Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships, inspiring a postcode gang war, is just one.

“Speak of the devil and he shall appear” one of the group quips moments before Faust enters, his transition to the dark side well under way.

Written for The Scotsman

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