Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a play that I fell in love with when I was at school and that has stayed with me ever since. I’ve read the occasional modern story that pays homage to the tale and seen a few productions over the years since then, but none have really captured the essence of Faustus for me.
It is a tale of human folly and unattainable desire. It is a lesson that having all your wishes granted may not bring you happiness. It should, in fact, be necessary reading for everyone – it is that good of a story and a moral lesson.
Now, thanks to The Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham’s historic jewellery quarter, and Blue Orange Arts, a charity focused on bringing affordable high quality dramatic arts to the public, I feel satisfied that I have seen a performance that captures the true depths of the play.
In a small theatre it is at times hard to convey the necessary sense of dramatic tension and atmosphere that must come hand in hand with a play like this one. The set here consisted of a small stage that could be curtained off when necessary and an area of the floor in front of the stage where the main bulk of the action took place, with the audience seated in a horseshoe around it so that we the watchers were very close to the players at all times.
Mixed media including some excellent sound effects and on stage music, puppetry, masks, a wonderful array of props and costumes, the hellish dry ice and some clever lighting were used in abundance to ensure that every aspect of the story was played out in lavish detail. Add in performances from six very strong actors and a director with an eye for cleverly embellished dramatics and you have a resounding success. I will even forgive them the few touches of modernity that crept into the production.
At the interval we were enticed from our seats and into the bar by the devils, still in character, and they, along with Mephistopheles throughout, were successfully creepy, evil eyes staring out from eerily inert red masks. It is these additional touches that show us how thoroughly the original material was studied and interpreted to retain the audience’s attention even as we were departing the venue for a quick whiff of non-dry-iced air.
To say the performance was intense would be an understatement and by the end I was entirely immersed in Faustus’ plight. It may be a venue I have never before visited but if this is the quality of work being produced I will certainly be keeping an eye on the upcoming shows. My love for Marlowe’s play has once again been ignited.