by Christopher Marlowe.
Rose Theatre 56 Park Street Bankside SE1 9AS To 28 February 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Sun 3pm.
Runs: 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 261 9565.
Review: William Russell 6 February.
The devil to pay –and worth the price.
Christopher Marlowe’s play about the man who made a pact with the devil was first performed here 420 years ago and this skilfully staged production by Martin Parr is being staged to mark the 450th anniversary of the dramatist’s birth.
It has a suitably handsome tribute. He has staged it as a one-man show for Christopher Staines who plays Faustus with the backing of off-stage voices and some splendidly atmospheric music.
Staines’ performance is totally assured and he proves mesmerising to watch as he recounts his encounter with Mephistopheles and the deal they strike for his soul.
I am not quite sure about the lapse into twenty first century speech when Faustus confronts the Pope, although Staines conducts a hilarious conversation with tiny scraps of paper torn from a bible and turned into priests and the Holy Father. The comic scenes have always been controversial given that the text of the play – the “serious” stuff is in blank verse – is anyway a subject of academic dispute.
In its favour, it is undeniably funny and the revelation that Simon Cowell is not the Devil but Louie Walsh is a really nice joke.
Staines delivers his monologue seated at a desk, sprawls across it when engaging in lechery, and as the story advances to crisis point suddenly rises to rip down the back wall of the set and plunge into the candlelit depths of the theatre site. It is extremely effective, as are his forays into the audience.
There may be no devils rampaging round the set and Helen of Troy may not appear but it matters not. Staines creates Marlowe’s dark and dangerous world from the way he delivers the words and by his muscular, assured performance. He is helped tremendously by his stage manager who ensures all those musical sounds and off-stage voices come on at the right time. She gets her own well deserved bow at curtain call.
Dr Faustus: Christopher Staines.
Director: Martin Parr.
Stage Manager: Alex Pearson.