Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London – until 2 February 2019
I love Christopher Marlowe. I love the raciness and rebel in him. And sometimes, particularly in Paulette Randall’s reframed version here at Shakespeare’s Globe with Doctor Faustus, the omnivorous, greedy scholar as a woman selling her soul to the Devil for more knowledge and more of everything material, you could feel the young Marlowe within riding those waves as if putting two fingers up to the Establishment of his times.
Randall, in her first excursion to Sam Wanamaker’s remarkable legacy – and let’s hope she’s let loose on the main stage very soon – certainly finds the humour in it, mostly coming from the serenely sardonic lips of her Mephistopheles, the very wonderful Pauline McLynn who I’ve never seen before. She should promptly be snatched and placed at the service of the nation for she has the supreme gift – like the late June Whitfield – of superb comic timing that comes only from experience. She is a delight.
Inevitably, in the atmospheric but candle-lit indoor Sam Wanamaker theatre, Marlowe’s part satirical, part philosophical debate on things temporal and spiritual doesn’t quite capture the play’s scope. But then, Doctor Faustus may not be Marlowe’s greatest claim to fame. Like many satires out of their time, what must have seemed a hoot and something of a radical subversion of history now has limited currency.
On a larger stage, Marlowe’s ‘pageant’ and digressions into pre-history and high-jinks at the courts of various potentates gives a director an opportunity to pull off pyrotechnic and other stage fireworks as Faustus and Mephistopheles go ‘under cover’ as invisible pranksters, causing a certain amount of comic mayhem in the process.
In the Wanamaker’s more limited physical space, Randall and her crew can only create a certain amount of magical sleights of hand.
Of more interest is the danced parade of the Seven Deadly Sins. Randall has taken her inspiration, she writes in the programme, from a visit to Brazil, witnessing Candomblé ceremonies. Based originally in Africa and brought to South America by African slaves, the choreography created by a company called Paradigmz gives the production an unusually exotic, other worldly texture in a production notable for its multi-racialism and Joseph Roberts’ African tinged music.
© Marc Brenner, Jocelyn Jee Esien and Pauline McLynn – Faustus confronting his nemesis, Mephistopeles…
Doctor Faustus herself is played by Jocelyn Jee Esien endowing her with a hunger for knowledge and voluptuousness that is wholly new and refreshing.
She really comes into her own, however, in the play’s final ten mintues when the bargain cut between Faustus with Lucifer and Mephistopheles comes to full term. Esien’s terror of the end to which her character is about to be subject – everlasting hell – is something to behold as is her exit through the Wanamaker’s back doors to a cavern ablaze with candles. A vision of eternal fire indeed.
Full marks then to Esien and Pauline McLynn and a small cast who double and treble up roles with admirable versatility.
Like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Doctor Faustus ultimately is a treatise outlining the perils that befall an individual abandoning God and Christian belief. Clearly also a warning, you can’t help but feel that it’s given with a certain scepticism. After all, isn’t the devil in the shape of Mephistopheles given some of the best `tunes’ ie lines!
Enjoy yourself today for tomorrow you may die? Young Marlowe certainly played that out in his life to the hilt. I just hope he hasn’t been punished for it and is lying somewhere screaming at his tormenters to let him back into the celestial garden. He deserves better than that.
by Christopher Marlowe
Valdes/Martino/Carter: Sarah Amankwah
Scholar 2/Beelzebub/Horse-Courser/Duke of Saxony: Lily Bevan
Doctor Faustus: Jocelyn Jee Esien
Cornelius/Scholar 3/Robin/Frederick: John Leader
Good Angel/Dick/Benvolio: Louis Maskell
Mephistopheles: Pauline McLynn
Evin Angel/Hostess/Duchess of Vanholt/Helen of Troy: Lucie Sword
Wagner/Old Woman: Mandi Symonds
Lucifer/Pope/Emperor/Duke of Vanholt: Jay Villiers
Musical Director/Percussion: Phil Hopkins
Bass: Joseph Roberts
Guitars: Rob Updegraff
Trumpet/Recorders: Adrian Woodward
Director: Paulette Randall MBE
Designer: Libby Watson
Composer: Joseph Roberts
Dramaturg: Jude Christian
Associate Choreographer for Doctor Faustus: Jackie Guy
Fight Directors: Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown of Rc-Annie Ltd
Globe Associate – Movement: Glynn McDonald
Globe Associate – Voice: Martin McKellan
Deputy Text Associate: Christine Schmidle
Assistant Director: Grace Joseph
Costume Supervisor: Lorraine Ebdon-Price
Assistant Costume Supervisor: Janet Spriggs
Magic Consultant: Peter Clifford
First perf of this production of Doctor Faustus in the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe, Southwark, London, Dec 1, 2018
Runs to Feb 2, 2019
This review published on this site, Dec 31, 2018
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