Review: Faustus

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This play follows a learned and somewhat egotistical Doctor Faustus who is bored of the mere mortal life. Wanting something greater than superficial, ordinary existence, Faustus seeks to become something more divine and mysterious. He begins to delve into the works of the devil, reasoning that “Kings and Emperors are limited to mere provinces, whereas a magician is a demigod”.

From the very moment the play begins the audience are immediately aware of a minimalist but nevertheless awe-inspiring set. The long tendrils of lights that hang from the theatre rig function not only as colourful lighting to illuminate the set, but to set the cavernous scene of hell: the devil’s stalactital lair. Created by none other than the genius of Alfie Poynter, a sixth form student, these light bars pave the way for the chilling play to follow. A plethora of other lighting and technical wizardry is mastered by Russ and his superb tech team.

Ollie Hamilton and Ben Ramus start the performance memorably, appearing as rather smug but considerate hosts for the audience, hilariously instructing us on how to cope with the damnation ahead. After all, as Ollie quips: “Eternity, I shouldn’t need to say, is a rather long time”. Their confident performances and excellent fourth wall breaks bring an engaging and very amusing entrance to this production.

Tolly Edwards brilliantly conveys the dynamic main role of Faustus, beginning with an overly confident naivety, and ending as a broken, desperate man. This versatile and carefully-constructed character embodies the play’s success; Tolly’s outstanding acting gives the play a genuine sense of tragedy when we see his fall from grace after selling his soul to the devil.

The characters key in Faustus’ downfall are two: Mephistopheles, played by Jake Godfrey, and Lucifer himself, Will Palmer. Mephistopheles is played with a subtle kind of cunning that emerges properly towards the second half of the play, where he goes from being a humble demonic adviser to Faustus to being effectively his master. Jake Godfrey’s portrayal of this dramatic power dynamic change is a clear demonstration his excellent acting ability. Will Palmer plays Lucifer with unnerving, spine-tingling cruelty; his every annunciation is painted with evil and cruelty. Although he doesn’t have much stage time, Will makes a very foreboding impact upon the audience.

Not to be left out are the many other great performances such as Wagner, Valdes, Cornelius and the ensemble, who acted with precision and effortlessness to bring the production together.

Incorporating symbolic movement inspired by the works of theatre company Frantic Assembly with a re-imagined Doctor Faustus is not an easy task to handle. However, at the reigns of the play are two debuting sixth former directors: Tom Conradi and Barnaby Johns. Having been in student-directed performances themselves, they clearly know the struggle of organising and putting together a production as large as this. Yet it is fair to say they have excelled in juggling it all in order to create such an enthralling and complex play.

I urge the reader to come and watch the last nights of the play this Wednesday and Thursday in the QEH Theatre for a short but sweet satanic experience which will surely be a success.