REVIEW (From a distance): The Sorrows of Satan

We are fashionably late to the Sorrows of Satan party (due to an unfortunate face planting incident which postponed our plans to watch the show on Friday night, and left Mummy in stitches in an entirely different way.) So late in fact that the show’s streaming run has ended. You might therefore think that the purpose of this review is now to tell you about what you missed, rather than encourage you to watch it. But it’s not. First and foremost it’s to give writer and performer Michael Conley a confidence boost because we understand that he is a wilting wallflower who needs lots of encouragement. But we also have a sinful little secret for you – The show is still available on demand until the end of May. So go and grab yourself a ticket right now. (Or read the rest of the review first if you like.)

Michael Conley, Luke Bateman, Stefan Bednarczyk and Molly Lynch in The Sorrows of Satan. © Jane Hobson.

The Sorrows of Satan is a musical play (or possibly a musical comedy about a musical play that is definitely not (at least initially) a musical comedy) by Luke Bateman and Michael Conley, directed by Adam Lenson. Based on Marie Corelli’s 1895 controversial bestseller, the show reimagines the story of Faust in 1920s London, where penniless but pretentiously avant-garde musical playwright Geoffrey Tempest (Luke Bateman) is putting on a rehearsed reading of his musical play ‘The Sorrows of Satan’. There’s just one problem: one of the four cast members has unfortunately been defenestrated, leaving Geoffrey to step into the role of Faust. As soon as that snag is sorted, it transpires that a second cast member has gone the same way as the first and Geoffrey’s rehearsed reading also looks to be going out of the window. Thankfully Geoffrey’s mysterious patron (and coincidentally the bearer of both bits of bad news) Prince Lucio Rimânez (the inimitable Michael Conley) steps in as Satan to save the day. But all is not what it seems (or, in a case of life imitating art, perhaps it is exactly what it seems) and soon Lucio is offering Geoffrey fame, fortune and even the love of his leading lady. All Geoffrey need give in return is his artistic integrity. Which is probably for the best because it turns out that his musical play is utterly awful, with each dreary song sounding exactly the same as the last until Lucio starts inserting his own “suggestions” and dragging a begrudging Geoffrey deeper into the murky underworld of musical comedy.

After an intentionally slow start (which bravely commits to the gag about Geoffrey’s god awful music by repeating the same damn melody so many times that it may well be stuck in your head for quite some time), the pace picks up as devil incarnate Lucio starts to assert himself with upbeat tunes and talk of chorus girls. Filmed in the lavish ballroom of Brocket Hall, it’s a witty affair, which lovingly pokes fun at popular musicals and classic plays, and provides yet further evidence that Bateman and Conley are, quite frankly, disgustingly talented individuals. (If you haven’t seen their other online hit The Fabulist Fox Sister, which also stars the one and only Michael Conley, we implore you to catch it while you can!) Molly Lynch shows her versatility and comic prowess as The Woman, who returns in a series of guises after failing to get close enough to Geoffrey but rather too close to Lucio and an open window! The cast is completed by another impressive multitasker, Stefan Bednarczyk, as mute pianist Amiel who doesn’t allow his absent tongue to get in the way of singing an amusing ditty about his own deal with the devil.

Stefan Bednarczyk and Michael Conley in The Sorrows of Satan. © Jane Hobson.

Although there is not a weak link in the stellar cast, Conley is the star of the show and he milks it magnificently. For all his talk of dancing girls, he is quite capable of commanding a stage all by himself with his particular brand of satanically suave camp, and we can only imagine the level at which his performance would peak if he could peacock in front of actual people! Give the devil his due and put The Sorrows of Satan (and The Fabulist Fox Sister for that matter) on a stage somewhere stat. We’ll be there even if we have to sell our souls for tickets. Just as long as we’re seated well away from the windows!

The Sorrows of Satan streamed from 5 to 9 May 2021 and is available on demand until 31 May. We received a complimentary press ticket in return for a review.

Age recommendation: 12+