A meditation on determinism, you will emerge questioning whether autonomy is merely a facade, but also horny, very horny. Founded upon the Goethe’s renowned Faust, Devil of Choice is not an exact parallel, but damned close.
Reminiscent for some, we begin as the unwilling students of a self absorbed lecturer, as he recounts – not quite word for word – God’s deal with the Devil, who lures the perfect Faustus to sin. Having delved deep into a sticky underworld, Faustus is later absolved for his abominations merely because he continued to ‘swing the bat’ of life. Our charming professor Sal, and his wife Pepper, enter and disorder Delia’s lonely world. Through a steamy affair, and Delia and Pepper’s guilt-shrouded friendship, we explore whether choice truly exists, under the influence of temptation.
Bookended by episodes of ingenious comedy, Devil of Choice delicately balances depth with entertainment. Despite the sinner, Delia (Maggie Bofill) is not our villain. A relatable victim, she grapples with paralysing confliction and romantic rejection, helped by hummus, lentil chips and vodka. Jarringly enthusiastic to begin with, Pepper (Paula Pizzi) is played brilliantly, her ignorance becomes achingly painful to endure as the affair develops. With teenage naivety Pizzi brings the comedy, revelling in a post-sex glow, spilling down the phone to our spurned lover. Sal (Justin Reinsilber) is the standard American psycho; charismatic, manipulative and gas-lighting, he is the puppet master.
Minimalist scenery serves as Delia and Pepper’s homes, at times simultaneously, empowering the slap of deceit as both women fornicate on the same sofa, with the same man, moments apart. With an original score, the piece is beautifully accompanied by a solo violinist, Melisa McGregor, varying between a delicate pizzicato and climatic double stops as the scenes progress.
The affair begins before sufficient groundwork has been laid, Delia’s motivations being alluded to but left underdeveloped, presumably because the turmoil the affair creates is the intended focus. Certain lines of narrative seem misplaced, Pepper’s previous violin talent being one; a seemingly forced method of characterisation. Whilst deservedly drawing attention to the skill of McGregor, this could have been achieved by a more visible positioning. Sal is a depthless character, who fails to challenge the audience. Despite patronising and manipulative, he serves as a mere plot point for Delia and Pepper to bounce their narrative off. The virginal motif of cleanliness Sal introduces is a missed opportunity for his development. Nevertheless, two complex characters are sufficient for the hour, and Sal frames the thematic direction of the piece.
Devil of Choice draws to a close with great satisfaction, one woman conflicted, fragile, and carrying a weight of responsibility, the other unburdened. An evocative piece, we leave asking, do I have freedom of choice? Is swinging the bat, and hitting a few bystanders, better than existing in harmless passifisity? Where can I buy Delia’s black satin dress? All worthwhile questions.