Sunday 4 September 2011

Doctor Faustus @ The Globe

If hell is as exciting as this production would have you believe, then count me in.

Marlowe’s morality play finds a natural home on the Globe stage for a traditional interpretation; Renaissance costumes and staging used with spellbinding effect.  Magic and dark illusion are at the forefront, as Faust gives up on science and reason by selling his soul to the devil for a life of necromancy and sorcery.  But as his hedonistic lifestyle catches up with him, he refuses redemption from God and instead is dragged to hell to forever serve Lucifer, his master. 

Though the narrative focuses on Faust, this was truly an ensemble piece.  The acting was fused with dance and physical theatre, bringing to life a menagerie of colourful characters and demonic creatures.  Stage props appeared from trap doors; fire leapt out of powerful tomes; vile demons were conjured from thin air in human, stilt-walking and puppet form; and good and bad angels, literally depicting Faust’s internal conflict and appropriately armoured with wings and horns, fought valiantly against one another.  In particular, the personified seven deadly sins celebrated the macabre and the supernatural with ghoulish style, more akin to an abominable circus.  All this was accompanied by largely percussive music – drumbeats and eerie metallic sound effects adding to the devilish charm, whilst lightly plucked lutes provided seductive allure.  On the twilit stage of the Globe, Matthew Dunster’s direction was enchanting.

The magic continued with the cast themselves.  Diction was exceptional by all the cast, allowing the narrative to be relayed with crystal clarity.  Paul Hilton successfully portrayed the conflicted Faust, whilst Arthur Darvill’s Mephistopheles was suitably demonic.  Humour was not lost though, with audience interaction, Marlowe’s pun infused script and delivery suitable for a contemporary audience – Pearce Quigley’s bawdy Robin made a hilarious clown.

Any piece at the Globe will thrive in the stunning surroundings, but this highly commendable production was truly magical.