by Christopher Marlowe.
Blackwell’s Bookshop (The Norrington Room) 48-51 Broad Street OX1 3BQ To 2 April 2011.
BSL Signed 3 March.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 766266.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 February.
Energetic and imaginative production, aptly located.
“I’ll burn my books,” declares Christopher Marlowe’s hero. Not in this production he won’t. For Creation Theatre plays on a bare-board platform in Blackwell’s Bookshop, surrounded and overlooked by both the audience and a fair portion of the company’s stock.
Charlotte Conquest’s all-male production happily takes scissors to the dramatis personae (conjurors Valdes and Cornelius, for example, become unseen co-authors of a book on necromancy). Mephistopheles’ first, fearful form becomes a stroboscopic light, before Gwynfor Jones enters in dark business-like clothes, contrasting Gus Gallagher’s showily white-shirted Faustus and the academic-shabby of others – when they’re not becoming thuggish demons, a scruffy pope or the like.
Conquest adopts a group approach from the opening, where the cast seem glued to academic tomes, a step away from Faustus’ pact with the devil. A movement-based show of Deadly Sins ends not with lechery, but Faustus himself appointed as Pride.
When Mephistopheles asks what he wants, Faustus pauses slightly, uncertain. He’s clearly keen on power however, in a performance catching the excitement, and in later scenes an incipient weariness – though the poetics and anguish stretch the actor technically.
Conquest doesn’t help by pushing the first scenes, with cuts and excision of non-modern language. This diminishes Faustus’ uncertainties over the bargain, quickly paraded here with handheld mirrors reflecting his face as voices of temptation and resistance speak.
But the later, looser scenes are unusually coherent. Mephistopheles becomes demob-happy towards the end, slow and contemptuous when following Faustus’ instructions, while the Pope shows humanity as cruel as any modern tyranny, and down the social scale the Horse Course has a calculating slyness.
Faustus’ isolation is emphasised with the conjurings of Helen of Troy, the summation of human beauty who remains invisible. Shown to Faustus’ fellow-scholars she’s embraced lovingly by each as if in simultaneous, separate visions. When he summons her again, his praise of her is interrupted with waves of pain as lines from elsewhere echo around.
Finally, alone on the platform stage, the poetics again try the performance. But the intelligent handling of the ‘lesser’ scenes more than justifies visiting this stage among the pages.
Dr Faustus: Gus Gallagher.
Mephistopheles: Gwynfor Jones.
Wagner/Beelzebub/Benvolio/Prince of Persia: Damian Davis.
Martino/Lucifer/Robin/Valdes/Alexander: Richard Kidd.
Pope/Holy Roman Emperor/Horse Courser/Devil Bride: Alex Scott-Fairley.
Director: Charlotte Conquest.
Designer: Amy Yardley.
Lighting: Ashley Bale.
Sound: Matt Eaton.
Movement: Aidan Treays.
Illusionist: Darren Lang.
Fight director: Philip D’Orleans.
Assistant designer: Kate Matthews.