Doctor Faustus

Published September 14, 2016

What’s it about?

Christopher Marlowe’s famous tale of a brilliant scholar who turns to the dark art of magic in his quest for ultimate knowledge and power, selling his soul to the devil in return for 24 years of omnipotence. It’s a story written in the 16th century, but there are clear parallels to today’s society; the lure of fame and fortune, and the devastating consequences when it’s all taken away.

Who’s in it?

It’s a large cast, led by Sandy Grierson and Oliver Ryan, alternating the roles of Doctor Faustus and Mephistopheles. Who plays which role is determined at the start of every show, as each actor lights a match. Whoever’s match goes out first, plays Faustus.

On press night it was Sandy’s match who burned out first, and he effortlessly embodied the tormented Faustus, his energy never dipping – an impressive feat in a show that is 105 minutes straight through, with Faustus rarely leaving the stage. Oliver played the skulking, impish Mephistopheles to perfection, perching on the increasingly dishevelled set, urging Faustus to his final moment of reckoning.  

What should I look out for?

The Seven Deadly Sins. They are represented on stage as grotesque, almost Tim Burton-esque, caricatures, parading in front of Faustus, complete with song and dance.

Orlando Gough’s unnerving score, punctuating and pacing the show with drums, spell-conjuring, and other unworldly sounds.

In a nutshell?

A darkly stylish fable on the perils of greed, bursting with energy and originality.

What’s being said on Twitter?

Will I like it?

If you like modern interpretations of old classics, then yes. Whilst the language of the original is unchanged, the cast is in modern dress, complete with a sequin-clad drag queen as Lechery, and the Devil as a woman in a white jumpsuit. It’s certainly a show you’ll want to talk about afterwards, and one you’ll likely want to see again, for the chance to see each actor’s interpretation of Faustus and Mephistopheles.

Doctor Faustus plays at the Barbican until 1 October. Tickets can be bought from the offical website.

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