Doctor Faustus

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(4 user reviews)
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Doctor Faustus
© Keith Pattison
Doctor Faustus

The story of Faustus, a man who sells his soul for power and pleasure, has crossed centuries and continents, from cautionary medieval legend to Wall Street and beyond. But Christopher Marlowe’s play looks more medieval than modern in Matthew Dunster’s spectacular, overly literal production. It revels in the devils, sins and bawdy superstitious comedy but verges on the ridiculous.

Devils are hard to do in an era where evil no longer wears horns. Dunster, assisted by puppet-maker Stephen Tiplady and costume facilitators too numerous to mention, goes hell for leather on the red and black fetish gear – to grotesquely brilliant effect in a vision of the seven deadly sins, who seem to have erupted from damnation via Ann Summers.

Michael Camp deserves special mention for a slinky turn as Covetousness – not often a scene-stealing role. And Tiplady supplies skeletal bat-winged dragons for Faust and Mephistopheles to ride on.

But the spectacle fails to penetrate or awe in the Globe’s topless space. Hell’s crew are as scary as a stag do, and it’s hard to see what hold Arthur Darvill’s anguished Mephistopheles has over Paul Hilton’s intelligent Faust, more a decent man in a pinch than a soul in self-made agony.

A literal staging like this one comes up against the timebound limits of the Doctor’s imagination: he uses 24 years with Lucifer’s minion at his disposal to get a baroque lapdance, tweak the Pope’s nose and perform conjuring tricks for Felix Scott’s camp German Emperor.

As so often at the Globe, the comedy carries better than the tragedy. Pearce Quigley’s excellent Robin leads a ticklish gaggle of tapstresses and gullible chancers. But the puppets and the music, the sword-fighting angels and the strangely dancing black-lensed German scholars, are too sporadic and effortful to recreate Marlowe’s world in spectacle. Here be dragons – just not quite enough of them.

Average User Rating

3 / 5

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Rosanna

Can't believe I was watching the same show as some of the other reviewers - it was AMAZING. Everyone else I was standing near seemed to be loving it too. It was just perfect. Nice and dramatic in parts and really funny in others and great stage magic, music and puppetry. Would recommend standing in the yard as you feel like you're right in the middle of all the action.

JohnAd

The mundane arrogance, anguished self-centredness and sheer foolishness and ugliness of evil well displayed. The sins all illustrated. A very interesting production shows how the attractive beauty of the creation, mixed with desire drowns out the call of grace and creates misery. Really liked the way it was done.

CdB

A juvenile rendition of this classic. I would have expected more drama / darkness and less toilet humor in a place like the Shakespeaer globe. Unfortunately this seemed more like a cheap west end production than a performance of a great classic. A shame as well that the female characters didn't really get a chance to shine and were mostly depicted as sex objects and not as real people. The exception being the angel and devil which were performed with great skill.

CB

Really disappointing rendition of this play. It had no real substance and missed opportunities to deal with interesting themes, preferring instead to resort to cheap laughs from tedious sexist jokes and toilet humour. I've seen and enjoyed many plays at The Globe, and this was by far my least favourite. Not recommended!