Theatre in Wales

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National Youth Theatre of Wales- Faust , National Library Aberystwyth , September 1, 2000
As fine and fascinating an institution as it is, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth would never normally be regarded as the scene of deals with the devil, witches' sabbaths or passionate love affairs - not overtly, anyway. But its hallowed corridors and rooms resounded this week to the nightmarish tale of the man who sold his soul but is saved by the love of a good woman - and to follow it we were led from the library's modern atrium to the reading room, up and down staircases, into the courtyard and the canteen, by way of the council room and impressive main doors, from disillusion and temptation through desire to redemption.

The trip, courtesy of the amazing imagination of director Firenza Guidi and the extraordinary performers of the National Youth Theatre of Wales, was a strikingly theatrical multi-sensual experience. Light, sound, colour, video, smells and words seduced, stroked, assaulted and stimulated us as we followed Faust from worldly pleasures rro his salvation in the form of a pure love from the chaste Margaretta.

And some trip it was, with the canteen turned into an erotic playground as the witches' kitchen, the council room a choreographed feast crowned by the enchantments of the beautiful Helen of Troy, the courtyard a frenzied witches' sabbath. A tacky plaster Madonna, video screens, neon crosses and discarded tv sets were among the unexpected items in between the tomes in this repository of knowledge briefly inhabited by spirits, demons, sirens, dancers and singers in an amazing array of ornate hats in scenes out of medieval frescoes, Bosch fantasies and the dark recesses of our own archetypal symbol-stores.

The story-line may not always be clear and the theme of desire can get lost in the plethora of sensory experiences but the sheers guts, energy and commitment, so ably harnessed and exploited by Ms Guidi and her professional production team, is impressive. This remarkable event, the product of three weeks' intensive work for the 50-plus talented young people, transfers to the National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff next week, where the surroundings will provide another environment for this mind-boggling adventure.

Reviewed by: David Adams

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