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September 22nd - September 26th
Mike Wilson Productions presents
Greed, corruption and damnation are rampant in this one-man adaptation of the Elizabethan classic. Repentance plagues a haunted Faustus when he strikes a deal with Lucifer; 24 years of power and knowledge in return for Faustus’ tormented soul. Roma Farnell directs Harry Boaz in this bold new interpretation.
Running time: 70 minutes
Ages 12+ (distressing themes)
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There is a simple word which must open this review of Christopher Marlowe's masterwork, and that word is courage.
Theatres have been closed for months, the world is reeling under a pandemic, and here a young actor has taken on the daunting character of Faustus, Marlowe's huge over-reacher, and in a one-man performance gets the play across successfully to a small audience of masked theatregoers.
There are obvious comparisons between today and the Europe of Marlowe's day.
Once again we had pandemics, the Black Death ravaged most of Europe with millions dead, people were terrified of an invisible death agent stalking their world, and yet a tiny flower survived lockdowns and social horror--the English theatre Henslowe carried on at the Globe Theatre as best he could, boy actors swallowed raw eggs to keep the high voices required of them, thus hoping for better times ahead, when once again they might enchant the groundlings as Juliet or Cressida ( breaking voices led to lack of work and penury) and Elizabethan audiences watched Faustus with a kind of chill fascination, as Marlowe showed them the dire results of playing with fire or sealing blood pacts with Lucifer via his servant Maphistophilis.
In a severely cut but yet effective production by Roma Farnell, Faustus is carried successfully by Harry Boaz , a talented young actor with the lithe grace of an athlete and the capacity for tragedy of a young Paul Scofield. Much has been removed for this shortened version which relates it to early versions of the play as compared to later performances where whole new scenes were added (certainly by 1602)
Stretched to the limit and alone on a misty, suitably darkened stage, this good actor took us through jubilation to bleak despair as Faustus believed he was to be given the world through signing away his soul to Lucifer, only to realise that Mephistophilis has made him the victim of an outrageous act of sheer mendacity. Boaz uses his eyes well to express both pain and joy as the fiendish act of treachery unfolds, and he begins to realise that by selling his soul he has lost any hope of redemption by God ( not that Marlowe --himself a proclaimed atheist--- was particularly troubled, having outraged the Church by claiming that John the Baptist and Christ were lovers, and the Virgin Mary distributed her favours freely, he said boys and tobacco were the only things that mattered---a dangerous conceit in homophobic Elizabethan England)
As one of his many gifts Faustus is presented with Helen of Troy, a woman who represented the ideal image of female seduction to the 16th century. Boaz, clawing at empty space in a frenzied mime, leaves you feeling that the character is within his grasp and yet just out of reach, the poignancy of desire and frustration is done very well, and we get a marvellous sense here of fragility, a quality which lies within Faustus's psychological makeup along with terror and foreboding, things given to us very poignantly by Mr Boaz..
Voice work is needed urgently and Farnell must understand that pace and speed (which can lead to incoherent gabbling as here) are not the same thing. New Hollywood these days seems to dispense with vocal clarity relying instead on colour spectacle which . This Faustus needs to articulate if he is to reach his audience, to refrain from dropping the ends of sentences and to slow right down. Marvellous passages of sheer poetry currently suffer from inadequate projection, and the voice of Mephistophilis which comes in mysteriously from the wings, is blurred and often inaudible needing the a switch from the bass knob to the treble as soon as possible.
But it is good to find even in these straitened times, that Marlowe's Faustus can still produce excitement in the theatre, and for that excitement we must thank Mr Boaz once again for an act of complete selflessness.