Doctor Faustus

University Theatre, the Arts Centre, Christchurch

20/05/2010 - 29/05/2010

University of Canterbury Platform Arts Festival

Production Details

The University of Canterbury Platform Arts Festival presents the Free Theatre Christchurch production of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

Dr Faustus – scholar, magician, and proto-scientist – sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge and for becoming a black magic spectacular entertainer.

From a time when the certainties of God and nature were increasingly destabilised by the schism of the Christian religion and the birth of science, Marlowe’s Faustus is both folk hero and villain. He speaks to a contemporary audience caught at a similar, destabilising social moment, when the success of science has led to a highly technologised entertainment culture but also to the possibility of the self-destruction of the human race.

As with Faustus, our simultaneous quest for knowledge and distraction leads us into an unknown future. What are we selling our souls for? And what sort of hell awaits us? 

Free Theatre’s Doctor Faustus offers a cornucopia of theatrical and filmic delights: shadow puppets, magic lanterns, trick film, conjuring, fortune telling, optical illusions, live instrumental music, dance, song, science and other magic.

Directed by Peter Falkenberg (Artistic Director, Free Theatre, and Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Film Studies).

Venue: University Theatre, The Arts Centre of Christchurch 

8pm, Thurs 20 May 8pm, Fri 21 May
8pm, Sat 22 May 8pm, Sun 23 May
8pm, Thurs 27 May 8pm, Fri 28 May
8pm, Sat 29 May

Tickets: Admission $25 / Students $15
Bookings through Ticketek 0800 842 538  

Secondary Schools Performance:
8pm, Wed 26 May
This performance will be reserved for high school students.
For tickets contact Te Puna Toi, ph 03 365 3159
or email 

Chorus / Wagner / Wrath – Ryan Reynolds

Doctor Faustus – George Parker

Good Angel / Gluttony – Coralie Winn

Bad Angel / Lechery / Helen of Troy – Emma Johnston

Valdes / Pope / Belzebub / Sloth – Simon Troon

Cornelius / Lucifer / Covetousness – Liz Boldt

Mephostophilis / Envy – Marian McCurdy

Oboist / Pride – Greta Bond

Guitarist – Chris Reddington

Director – Peter Falkenberg

Designer – Chris Reddington
Filmic Effects – Ryan Reynolds
Musical Arrangement – Peter Falkenberg, Emma Johnston and Chris Reddington
Light Design – Aidan Simons and Richard Till
Audio/Visual Operator – Aidan Simons
Publicity Design: Tim Winfield
Producers – George Parker, Greta Bond and Liz Boldt
Front of House Manager – Toni Radics

Front of House: Toni Radics, Ali Foster, Mike Berry,Alisdair Muir, Naomi Campion, Ashleigh van den Akker.  

Exciting and enterprising but spectacle overwhelms language

Review by Lindsay Clark 21st May 2010

The timing is a little imprecise because, in the nature of festival – the University of Canterbury Platform Arts Festival in this case – the audience is involved in something other than walking up the old stone steps to the theatre long before the wilful scholar takes the stage. There is plaintive guitar and human voice, strange cloaked figures, mask and shadow creating an aura of medieval mystery …

The auditorium which initially seems so unhelpful, with its steeply raked audience and shallow performing area, lack of wings as such and two intrusive poles, becomes yet again an enchanted grotto where fantasy can flourish.

As festival fare, the story of the scholar who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and power offers ample opportunity for the directorial imagination of Peter Falkenberg to run riot. We are party to no predictable parade tracing the temptation, adventures and inevitable eclipse of Faustus, but a welter of puppetry, film and mask work. There are dramatic lighting effects, swirling vapours and a covey of black imps presenting this illusionist theatre with undeniable effect.

Outrage too has its place and to ensure our awareness that the fable applies to our own world as much as Marlowe’s, references to a sinister Osama/Obama facial similarity, for example, are boldly conceived and carried through with theatrical flourish. The search for knowledge, for pushing human nature to its limits and beyond, lies at the core of the play and matters even more in our contemporary world.

Such are the visual distractions though, that I almost lose Marlowe’s voice. Even at the perilous moment of his fated midnight, when Faustus must see that all has been but an illusion, a spectacle, the powerful language of the play seems sacrificed here to the actual mechanics of his removal. For an audience tuned to visual delights the production is on target.

Credit must go to a well exercised ensemble who seem to be able to be everywhere at once, surrounding George Parker’s questing Faustus with a regular gallimaufry of effects and challenges.

All in all an exciting, enterprising production and an appropriate one to open a festival of arts.
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