spotlight-studios
25th October 2010

Review – Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus, Royal Exchange, 10th September 2010 When Robert Johnson went to the crossroads to sell his soul to the devil, he did so in exchange for an awesome mastery of the guitar and revolutionised the blues forever more. The tale of Faust recounts how he did the same thing in his quest for knowledge […]
Review – Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus, Royal Exchange, 10th September 2010

When Robert Johnson went to the crossroads to sell his soul to the devil, he did so in exchange for an awesome mastery of the guitar and revolutionised the blues forever more. The tale of Faust recounts how he did the same thing in his quest for knowledge when academia and religion could not provide the answers he sought. But what would it take for you to sell your immortal soul to the devil?

England in the 16th century: Christopher Marlowe, fast living, rock and roll contemporary of our dearly beloved Shakespeare, sets down the legend of Faust in his play Doctor Faustus. Needless to say, tales of trucking with demons and outwardly renouncing God in order to obtain power, wealth and infamy cause more than a little controversy. A warrant is put out for Marlowe’s arrest under charges of heresy but he is killed in a pub brawl before he can be tried.

England in the 21st century: whilst pub brawling is no less common, expressing heretical ideas will no longer get you burnt at the stake. Indeed, the devil’s power to shock is now so underwhelming that it is not unusual to see one inked onto the bodies of women sunning themselves on the beaches of Benidorm.

And yet, at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, the power of the devil is undergoing a dramatic overhaul in the ambient, bold and inventive adaptation of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Director Toby Frow has created an engaging and provocative production that bursts with atmosphere and energy from the first haunting seconds to the fiery closing scene.

The strength of Patrick O’Kane’s performance as Faustus comes primarily from his powerful physical presence on the stage and, whilst his voice could stand to be a little louder at times, he portrayed Faustus’ psychological unravelling with tenacious realism.

Ian Redford gave a solid performance as Mephistopheles and both Rory Murphy as Robin and Stephen Hudson as Wagner were incredibly entertaining. The real strength of this production however comes from its incredibly imaginative use of theatrical techniques. Students from the Manchester Metropolitan University of Theatre make up the ensemble that is put to excellent use in impressive sequences of physical theatre. Acrobatics, singing, stage combat and mask theatre are all employed throughout a show which never loses pace and succeeds in captivating and titillating its 21st century audience from start to finish.

Showing until 9th October 2010.


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