Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Doctor Faustus; the night my love of plays was rekindled.

I recently was fortunate enough to see the incredible RSC's production of Doctor Faustus at the Barbican, in London. It blew my mind a little bit. Here's a few reasons why I loved it - and why you must all go and see it...

Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

The vibes.

It sounds odd, but from the very beginning when the two leading males took to the stage and had the most intense exchange – both stood, mirroring each other, then lighting a match, letting it burn out, ooh – there was an atmosphere that fell over the audience. The entire theatre became a different place. The doors to the stalls slammed shut all at once, and after that first fragment of a scene, Faustus (Sandy Grierson) launched into his first monologue and we were all hooked on him, like a beautiful yet toxic substance.
This penetrable atmosphere continued for the entire performance; the energy would always be at its peak, never slowing or fading.

Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

Your eyes will thank you.

The expression 'a feast for the eyes' can be overused, but let me assure you it's totally 100% relevant here. It's amazing what the the director and creative team did with the space, and then what the cast could achieve with such a minimal set. Well, it appeared to be minimal when I first went in...the cardboard boxes scattered around the stage and the tall hung sheets as a background initially fooled me. The stage soon became home to magic, demons, armies, the devil (more on her later!) and the deadliest of sins. 

Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

The hottest devil I ever did see.

The evil yet irrefutable Lucifer was played by Eleanor Wyld. She was an absolute vision in her bright white suit as she commanded the stage – and OMG, my hair envy was unreal whenever I saw her.

The people. 

I was astounded to learn that the roles of Faustus and Mephistophilis are alternated between two actors, Sandy Grierson and Oliver Ryan. That bit of info alone seemed insane. I mean, that's a lot of lines to learn...
Then I found out that the decision as to who plays which character is made ON THE NIGHT OF PERFORMANCE!? Oh yes, when the actors take to the stage in a dark mysterious prelude to the play that I mentioned earlier, they're actually deciding something very important. The man holding the match that goes out first? He'll be the Doctor. I cannot imagine what goes through the actors' heads each night as they strike their matches. Does one role excite them more? Do they dread being damned and hurt by the devil? I wish I knew. 

Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.


The supporting cast were all diamonds; I particularly want to applaud each of the actors who play one of the deadly sins, individually. Because, whoa. Such grotesque and gorgeous beings! 

No interval. 

I know this is a bit controversial, but...I've come to LOVE seeing a performance with no interval. It's so much more intense, not having a break - you're able to get utterly immersed in the show. Plus, it often ends quicker that way and you're free to go home and get to bed at a reasonable hour. 
Not that I wanted to do that with this show. My goodness, I could have stayed all night long. Staring endlessly at that troubled Doctor...

Words, tho. 

I'd forgotten how gorgeous a classic play could be - Christopher Marlowe's words would drip quietly or explode violently from the actors throughout and I found myself lost in the action, intoxicated by the speech. 



Image credit (Photographer & copyright): Helen Maybanks (c) RSC.

So yes, there are many more reasons why y'all must see this production ASAP, but these few featured here are the most important, in my opinion. 
Another important reason is that it ends soon! Doctor Faustus is running until 1st October, 2016. Hop to it. 

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