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The Sorrows of Satan review – Faustian fun from a stately home

·2-min read

This light, witty, devilishly well delivered “play with music” within a play with music is loosely based on the bestselling 1895 novel of the same title by Marie Corelli, itself loosely based around the myth of Faust. Here, there’s a twist to the tale. Satan, who secretly longs for redemption, is damned more deeply every time he succeeds in converting a soul to evil. Hence his suffering when impoverished writer Geoffrey Tempest succumbs to the temptations of fame, fortune and a kiss from the lips of the woman he loves.

In this online stage version, set in the 1920s, Tempest has written a pretentious “play with music” – emphatically not “musical comedy” – also loosely based on the Faust legend. It is being rehearsed at the splendid Mayfair home of Tempest’s new acquaintance, Prince Lucio Rimânez (AKA Satan), with the assistance of one of Lucio’s earlier fallen souls, Amiel, and a succession of identical young women in the role of The Woman – the only unnamed character in Tempest’s text. It’s a piece of sexism not lost on the writer of popular musical comedies Mavis Clare who is, at first, critically traduced, then ardently admired by Tempest (Molly Lynch, in all the “women” roles, fully deserves critical approval and admiration).

The book and lyrics are by Michael Conley (seductive as Lucio/Satan). Having jettisoned much of the novel’s plot and most of its characters, he niftily steals and repurposes its best epigrammatic lines to satisfying, Wildean effect (Oscar was an admirer of Corelli). As composer, Luke Bateman shows a generosity of spirit counter to his role as Tempest: having written the music, he gives the best tunes to the devil but reserves the hint of a torch song for himself. Fiendishly conjuring a full orchestral sound from his piano, Stefan Bednarczyk (regret-wrought Amiel) is responsible for arrangements. Adam Lenson’s direction, dexterously blending comedy, parody and a smidgen of morality, shows to best advantage this thoroughly wicked array of talent.