You can read 19 more articles this month
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London
THE ATMOSPHERICALLY candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is just about the perfect setting for Doctor Faustus and director Paulette Randall has ensured that her interpretation of Christopher Marlowe's cautionary tale makes great use of the venue's claustrophobic attributes.
On a dark, wood-panelled and vaguely masonic set, with three minstrels scratching eerie sound effects in the balcony above, Faustus's deal with the devil unfurls in shadowy fashion as Marlowe's polymathic lead, played with great elan by Jocelyn Jee Esien, opts to put short-term gain ahead of long-term pain.
It's a story that's especially apposite in these times, as is Marlowe's suggestion that hell is as easily found on earth as anywhere down below.
But while Randall is keen to explore the play's murky depths, she and the excellent cast also make the most of what humour is available, mining Marlowe's script for as many laughs as they can muster, including through some playful interaction with the audience.
In doing so, they raise the main reservation about this production. As a consequence of its enthusiastic search for lighter moments, nothing ever appears to be quite evil or hellish enough — not even the devil himself, played by Jay Villiers. It would be gratifying to feel a chill in the spine every now and then but genuinely sinister moments are few and far between.
On the whole, though, that's a fair price to pay for the enjoyment that the players wring out of Marlowe’s scenes, with many of the humorous moments among the highlights.
In keeping with the mood, Esien plays Faustus as a woman who seems to be in league with Lucifer for the fun of it rather than any actual, serious devilment. She also nicely conveys the sense that hers is a surface enjoyment — in the end, her magical exploits provide a rather hollow form of entertainment and are ultimately serving the needs of others, not herself.
As Faustus's cynical and sly foil, Mephistopheles (Pauline McLynn) verges on the lovable, gradually warming to her dastardly tasks as time passes. Among a strong ensemble, the homely and down-to-earth interventions of Mandi Symonds as Wagner are a comforting presence amid the trickery.
Not the most haunting of treatments, then – despite the dimly lit environment – but a stimulating amalgam of light and shade, comedy and tragedy, that does Marlowe justice.
Runs until February 2, box office: shakespearesglobe.com.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.