REVIEW: The Sorrows of Satan

Brian Butler May 7, 2021

Michael Conley and Luke Bateman have created a crazy, camp, outrageous and very clever musical comedy that is never quite what it seems.

Deftly directed by Adam Lenson  it’s like a Russian doll : there’s a show within this show and probably another within that – I began to lose count through my tears of laughter.

credit – Jane Hobson

Luke Bateman is a  dreadful failed playwright in 1920’s London  who has invited us  as the creme  de la creme of theatre people  to the home of his  rich mysterious patron Count Lucio to watch a workshopped version of his new show based on the Faust legend.

It’s clear after a few moments that this is a complete turkey of a show  with the same discordant repetitive tune for every song – reminiscent of the worst bits of the Phantom’s weird opera score. Things don’t seem to improve when the amoral and unconventional aristocratic Lady Sybil ( Molly Lynch ) arrives to take part in the show as The Woman.

But worry not : things look up when the oily, clearly evil Prince Lucio ( Michael Conley ) arrives and bit by bit insinuates his own catchy 20’s chorus line numbers into the playwright’s useless script. Never mind that Lucio has a very skilful line in defenestration , getting rid of the potential cast ;  we love his devilish ways.

credit – Jane Hobson

Making up the improbable quartet is Stefan Bednarczyk as Amiel the pianist, who has had his tongue removed ( by the devil ) but surprises no-one when he manages to sing a full-throated Cowardian ditty “I sold my soul to the devil – for more money than God, and a house in Cape Cod ”.

And so unravels a farcical tale of the desire for wealth, fame and love , not to mention the obsession with a box office hit, with guaranteed success – providing you can keep away from the Count’s windows.

credit – Jane Hobson

The setting could not be more sumptuous as it’s filmed in a large drawing room at Brocket Hall , complete with ancestral oil paintings and plush furnishings.

There are nods to Coward, as I’ve said , but also Gilbert and Sullivan, Oscar Wilde and Lord Lloyd Webber. Just when you start to get fed up of  Bateman’s earnest worthiness , he gives us a very funny  top hat and cane dance number but for me Conley is outstanding as the Satan of musical comedy , with his unnerving murderous smile .  It’s  ***** entrainment and I hope it gets a longer run and preferably so we can be in the same room for its mad, bad  and dangerous journey. And yes – the devil does have all the best tunes.

credit – Jane Hobson

The Sorrows of Satan is available online  for specific performances until Sunday 9 May –