Friday, 9 March 2018

The Tragic History of Dr Faustus (2006)

Performed by Third Party Productions at the Guildhall Theatre Derby 17th October 2006

This remarkable play, performed by a small company stopped for only one night in Derby and proved that you do not need huge sets or a huge budget to produce great theatre. One single set, a few curtains and props, three actors and the imagination, swept the theatre back to the sixteenth century to give us the well-known legend of Faust. This was in essence the classic Marlowe play rather than the continental versions of this German legend, having no particular love interest, no Marguerite or her familial intrigues.

As such this play owes more to the Richard Burton stage and film interpretations in which he was actor and director (Doctor Faustus 1967), rather than Gounod’s magnificent nineteenth century opera, or the equally amazing silent film of F. W. Murnau (Faust 1926) starring the then world’s greatest actor, Emil Jannings.

Performed by three actors, each at times playing the ukulele, Faustus (Nicholas Collett) is tempted by Mephistophilis (Anthony Gleave), portrayed as a cross between a travelling salesman and a stage conjuror to sell his soul. The appearance of a seductive Lucifer played in a complete departure from tradition by a female (the striking Fionnuala Dorrity) finally clinches the deal. A few magical stage tricks leaves the audience questioning just what is reality and just what is illusion. This includes the transformation of Mephistophilis from demon to seductress, using only a pair of red high heels and a fan. Acting at its purest.

The ending is of course predictable and unchanging but naturally features the beautiful Marlowe prose, as Faustus regrets his folly and eventually faces his end with all its inevitability. As such this was a more than a competent retelling of a well-known story and if it should tour again, I would highly recommend seeing this play.

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