DR FAUSTUS at Greenwich Theatre
Splendid Productions lived up to their name when they brought their spellbinding version of Dr Faustus to Greenwich Theatre, ingeniously using Christopher Marlowe’s mix of Stygian darkness and comic interludes to underscore a classic morality tale and give it contemporary relevance.
Director Kerry Frampton, who adapted it with Ben Hales, used the simple but clever device of a length of rope to symbolise a 1590 stage within the modern performance area, allowing the cast to step easily between the 16th and 21st century.
Marlowe’s own words remained sacrosanct inside the rope but Frampton and Hales introduced whip-smart modern witticisms to the lines spoken outside it. And they pulled off the remarkable trick of trimming the action by something close to half, I would guess, while remaining totally true to the spirit of the original.
The decision to cut the running time to just one hour meant the action was frenetic and the three members of the cast had to divvy up ten key parts between them. Hence as well as playing the soul-selling Faustus, Nick Crosbie also did a suitably devilish turn as Beelzebub, Grace Goulding was a brilliant Lucifer but also Faustus’s servant Wagner, a good angel, a pope and an old man while Tanya Muchanyuka not only gave us hellish emissary Mephistopheles and an evil angel but also a wise-cracking clown. None of them missed a beat as they switched between characters.
The audience was made up mostly of teenagers on school trips at the performance I saw and they seemed completely drawn in by the production. There was a terrific running joke in which Lucifer handed out his card – and there was never a shortage of youngsters dashing to the stage to grab one and, by extension, sell him their soul.
This was a beautifully judged and perfectly executed reimagining of a great play. So much so, in fact, that you couldn’t help but wonder if some sort of a deal might have been done…