The Sorrows of Satan
Reviewed – 5th May 2021
“a skilled and entertaining, if rather undramatic, evening”
The intriguingly named The Sorrows of Satan is not a musical, but a “play with music.” That definition is one of the running gags in this elegant four hander by Luke Bateman (music) and Michael Conley (lyrics), directed by Adam Lenson, and filmed at the impressive Brocket Hall for online presentation. Another running gag is that no matter where we are in the plot, any time a new song is introduced, the tune is always the same, unless the devil has substituted his own music. Audiences won’t be surprised, therefore, to learn that this show is a new adaptation of the Faust story — and a very loose adaptation at that. More interestingly, The Sorrows of Satan takes more of its source material from Marie Corelli’s 1895 best selling novel of the same title. But as is sometimes the case when novels are adapted for the stage, there’s a lot of attention paid to the characters, but not really enough on the complex story that surrounds them. The result is a drama that is rich in delicious dialogue and clever song lyrics, but a bit thin on plot and a satisfying denouément.
No one reads Corelli any more, which is a pity, since her novels are well written descriptions of the excesses of the Gilded Age, with the perspective of a writer who knew how poverty could challenge the artist in search of a muse, and who also knew at first hand the circus that follows fame and fortune. Now that we are living through a new Gilded Age, it’s easy to see why Bateman and Conley picked this novel to adapt for the stage. Kudos to them and their producers, Aisling Tara and Alfred Taylor-Gaunt, for presenting it now. The pandemic has made it even harder for struggling artists to make a living, let alone find recognition for their work.
This adaptation of The Sorrows of Satan does make references to the social consciousness that Corelli was famous for, but Bateman and Conley prefer a lighter tone full of repartee and bon mots, which is more appropriate, given the setting for this production. They begin by introducing us to Geoffrey Tempest, a writer on the verge of destitution, who has been invited, rather improbably, to present his new “play with music” The Sorrows of Satan, to a specially invited aristocratic audience at a stately home. Once we learn that the devil, aka Prince Lucio Rimanez, is behind this invitation, hoping to win Tempest’s soul, the improbable becomes acceptable, and the theme of temptation and soul selling for fame and fortune finds its well worn groove.
The lion’s share of the action in The Sorrows of Satan go to Bateman, playing author Geoffrey Tempest, and Conley, as Prince Lucio. These two are likeable foils for one another, with good singing voices. Conley in particular is a charming, if rather languid devil, who can, at times, be roused to push people out of windows when they step out of line. It is left to Molly Lynch, playing a variety of women who step out of line by refusing to fall in love with Tempest, to provide some dramatic, and sexual, tension. She is suitably aristocratic as Lady Sybil, aggressively feminist as (successful) playwright Mavis Clare, and finally, sweet and vulnerable as the fresh young Irish actress Molly, who provides a way out of the tempting dilemma the devil and his eager victim find themselves. All three actors, together with musical director Stefan Bednarczyk, present on stage at the piano, and playing the (mostly) silent Amiel, Prince Lucio’s factotum, provide a skilled and entertaining, if rather undramatic, evening.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Jane Hobson
The Sorrows of Satan
Other shows reviewed by Dominica this year:
THE SORROWS OF SATAN
Written by Luke Bateman & Michael Conley
Directed by Adam Lenson
Tristan Bates Theatre, London | 14 February – 25 March 2017
Casting announced for The Sorrows of Satan, a brand new musical play, based on one of the world’s first bestselling novels
The Sorrows of Satan is written by musical theatre writing duo Bateman and Conley and directed by Adam Lenson (Songs for a New World, St. James Theatre) and runs at Tristan Bates for six weeks, opening on 21 February with previews from 14 February
Cast includes Stefan Bednarczyk, Claire-Marie Hall, Dale Rapley and Simon Willmont
Stefan Bednarczyk plays Amiel. He has appeared in Mike Leigh’s Oscar-winning film Topsy Turvy and most recently as Foster Jenkins in Florence Foster Jenkins. He is a renowned solo cabaret performer, who has performed acclaimed seasons at Crazy Coqs, The Pheasantry, Pizza on the Park, King’s Head and Jermyn St. Theatre in London. Acting roles include a year-long run opposite Gene Wilder in Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Queen’s Theatre), Semi-Monde (Lyric), The Games of Love and Chance (National Theatre), The LA Plays (Almeida), Five O’Clock Angel (Hampstead and King’s Head), The Killing Of Mr Toad, The Grand Duke (Finborough), Noel Coward’s Christmas Spirits (St. James Theatre) and The Importance of Being Earnest (Riverside Studios). His films include Friends Pictured Within, Composed, Sea-Change and Topsy-Turvy.
Claire-Marie Hall plays ‘the Woman’. She studied at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Theatre includes Between Empires (Symposium Hall, Edinburgh), The King and I (Curve Theatre and National Tour), Aladdin (New Wimbledon Theatre and Hackney Empire), High School Musical (Hammersmith Apollo and National Tour) and Les Miserables (Queen’s Theatre, West End).
Dale Rapley plays Lucio. He trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Theatre credits include Aladdin (Lyric Hammersmith), Richard III (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown (West End), Wicked (UK tour), Larisa & The Merchants (Arcola), Hello Dolly! & Piaf (Curve, Leicester), Dangerous Lady (Theatre Royal Stratford East), The Lady in The Van (Hull Truck), The Tempest & King Lear (Actors From The London Stage, US), The Merchant of Venice & Holding Fire (Shakespeare’s Globe), Heartbreak House (Palace, Watford), A Model Girl (Greenwich Theatre), Professor Bernhardi (Arcola), Mamma Mia! (Prince Edward & tour), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, High Society (Regents Park Open Air Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RSC), Six Characters Looking for an Author (Young Vic), Eden End & Arms and the Man (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Private Lives, Virtual Reality, A Word from our Sponsor, Dreams from a Summer House, Rocket to the Moon (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), Lady into Fox (Lyric Hammersmith). Forthcoming productions include the UK tour of The Addams Family.
Simon Willmont plays Geoffrey. He trained at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA). Theatre credits include Mamma Mia! (International tour), Shady Business (UK tour), Beauty & the Beast (Engine House, Barnsley Civic), Blood Brothers (Phoenix Theatre, London & National Tours),The Hired Man, Cinderella, Stories for Christmas (Theatre by the Lake, Keswick), Jack & the Beanstalk (Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham), Everybody Loves Jason (Leicester Square Theatre), Rumpelstiltskin, Love & Other Ambiguities (Greenwich Theatre & Brighton Festival), The Adventures of Robin Hood (Gardner Arts Centre, Brighton), Girls Night Out (UK tour), Fabula Urbis (Greenwich Theatre) and Never Saw The Day (UK tour).
Based on Marie Corelli’s 1895 controversial bestseller, this new musical play reimagines the story of Faust in the heart of a corrupt 1920s London, where the elite are financially and emotionally bankrupt and one man has a big decision to make.
Pretentiously avant-garde musical playwright Geoffrey Tempest has been kicked out of his accommodations with not a penny to his name. He has one chance to prove himself to the theatrical community: a rehearsed reading of his musical play, The Sorrows of Satan. When his patron, the prodigal Prince Lucio Rimânez, suggests some significant changes, Geoffrey must decide whether to hold on to his artistic integrity (for what it’s worth) or sell out for the promise of fame, money and the love of his leading lady.
The Sorrows of Satan is written by Luke Bateman (Mr Popper’s Penguins) and Michael Conley and directed by Kevin Spacey Artist of Choice Award winner Adam Lenson (Songs for a New World, St. James Theatre). Casting and further creative details are to be announced.
THE SORROWS OF SATAN
Tuesday 14 February – Saturday 25 March 2017
1A Tower Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9NP.
Running time TBC – Age guidance 12+
Tickets: £20 (£18) All previews £14
Box Office 020 3841 6611