Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

30/05/2017 - 03/06/2017

Production Details


An actor has made a deal with the devil. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus – one of theatre’s greatest roles – all theirs to perform. One problem: they’ve never rehearsed with the rest of the cast. With a new guest performer in the leading role every night, The Faustus Project promises to be hilarious, a little dangerous and a devilishly good time.

A devised work using the original script by Shakespeare’s good mate Christopher Marlowe, this tragical story follows a man who makes a deal with the devil. For 24 years, Faustus will have unlimited power, money, glory – anything he could ever want. An eternity in hell at the end of it all a small price to pay, right? Faustus doesn’t quite know what he’s gotten himself into, and neither does our lead actor.

The guest actor who braves the leading role of Doctor Faustus is different every show. They’ve got the script, and they know the role, but they don’t know anything else. The actors taking on this torture are listed next to the show nights on iTicket, so be sure to check them out!

30 MAY – 3 JUN 2017
PRICE: $15 – $20
Book Now [This link reveals who the guest actors are each night.]

Trigger warnings: Potential Violence. Potential Nudity. Sexual Content. Dark Themes.

Concession prices available to: Gold Card carriers, Equity members, Students – all with valid ID

Theatre ,

1 hr

Pertinent to this age in particular?

Review by Nik Smythe 02nd Jun 2017

The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus is an Elizabethan play first written and performed in the late 16th century.  The inexecrable (an archaic word the playwright and Bard’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe was apparently fond of, meaning ‘particularly execrable’) fable is based on an even older German tale of material desire, greed and damnation.

Born of humble means, the young Faustus is fortunate enough to be awarded the honour of a prestigious Theological education.  It would seem however that a little learning is a dangerous thing, thus it takes a minimal amount of tempting to lure the learned doctor into the infamously abominable contract with Lucifer him- or in this instance her-self: twenty four years of power, fame and glory for the mere pittance of his eternal soul.

Nothing new there, although despite being one of the most famous allegories in all the arts this is the first production of the actual original English version I’ve seen.  Meanwhile, the choice of play, while a good one, is actually secondary to The Faustus Project’s conceptual premise, or gimmick if you will: each performance has a different actor in the titular role – one Matthew Kereama this night (Thursday), playing from a script copy wherein only his lines and directions are visible.

The supporting cast offer crisp, versatile performances, director Caleb Wells adopting the singular role of Lucifer’s smarmy, depraved envoy Mephistopheles.  The rest play multiple parts, with Courtney Bassett’s eclectic turns including said deplorable Prince(ss?) of Darkness, and the unholy trinity is completed by Kelaan Schlöffel-Armstrong’s bestial leather clad Beelzebub.

Among their own notably diverse personae, Iana Grace personifies heartfelt virtue as the Angel appealing to Faustus to repent before it’s too late, while Jaime McDermott cuts a saucy blonde of a red devil reinforcing her master’s persuasion and warning that it is already indeed too late.  The suitably dynamic, unsettling lighting and well-appointed religion-centric soundtrack by Andrew Furness augments the semi-chaotic action splendidly.

A fair portion of the entertainment is naturally derived from our understanding of the experiment, in which the protagonist is in reality experiencing the story unfolding at the same time as we are.  Beginning relatively staid and expository, the gothic tension and graphic vulgarity steadily increase to a colourfully dreadful climax, utilising all manner of ingenious theatrical devices along the way.

Kereama shows remarkable gumption and impressive singing chops in his passionate depiction, having even managed to memorise a couple of the hapless doctor’s climactic soliloquies.  Also, not that we’d have known, he performs valiantly upon a broken foot which he pain-rated at about 7 out of 10 (“Well that gives us 3 more to work with,” reason the others).

Since the legend of Faust was first told scholars and lay folk have dissected, discussed and debated it and its many subsequent variants, exploring the deeper implications of human avarice and lust for power; how far one would go and what one would be willing to sacrifice and so on.

For my money Faustus is a fool who, in seeking a fleeting spell boundless glory and privilege, proves himself to be the basest of blood-and-gristle human wastrels.  Not to mention an illogical idiot who can’t see the sprawling rainforest for the fragile sapling.  It’s not as though he’s been duped in any way, the contract is as transparent as it is binding, thus his fate is written in blood at the end of act one.

Admittedly I’ve never managed to comprehend what the Dark Lord ever found so appealing about enforcing the eternal suffering of such woeful patsies either. Something to do with the cycle of abuse, having been ignobly exiled from Heaven some aeons earlier, I suppose.  No matter, ours not to reason why … The point is one should respect the Devil enough to avoid him, not succumb to beguiling temptation – a pertinent moral in any age and this one in particular, I feel.


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Fresh, unique and entertaining

Review by Johnny Givins 31st May 2017

Yesterday (Tuesday) was Christopher Marlowe’s birthday and he received a revolutionary update from an exciting group of young actors which is fun, outrageous and best of all well-spoken! 

The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus is the classic medieval story of a man who sells his soul to the Devil for supernatural magical powers and learns to regret it as he faces eternal damnation.  

The premise for The Faustus Project is that Faustus is played by a different guest actor each night.  However the guest actor has never rehearsed with the rest of the cast.  A few days before the show the guest actor is given the script but all the lines of the other actors are redacted.  In performance the actor holds the text in a book with the deleted lines. They have to follow the ensemble’s actions and characters as they enter.  The guest actor has to say their lines not knowing what is physically going to happen or what is going to be said next! 

It’s a dangerous and challenging situation for any actor but it adds to the original Doctor Faustus story well.  By giving your soul to the devil you really don’t know what is going to happen.  That’s where the fun starts. 

The Faustus Project captures a young theatre audience that is up to the challenge. The audience is young: 80% under 25.  Skilfully abridged by the Director Caleb Wells, the verse is clear and understandable. This is no classic restaging for theatre history and the audience is willing to travel the outrageous journey.  

The guest actor starts on stage while the audience enters.  He has his redacted script and a bible on a desk and empty stage.  The obligatory Health and Safety forms are completed and signed; the ‘safety word’ is nominated. On opening night it is “Hail Mary”.  Tinges of S&M arise in the imagination and tease the audience.  Will it go too far, so that the safety word has to be invoked?

On opening night the guest actor is Andrew Gunn. You may remember him from his prizing winning play in 2016 Potato Stamp Megalomaniac. This year he was at the fringe festival with his new play Flesh of the Gods. Gunn is a young actor with natural presence and gives himself generously to the variety of Marlowe temptations and incantations.  He has superb understanding of the text and articulates with style and aplomb. 

He is a ‘skinny Kiwi’ and embodies many elements and conflicts of his generation with a casualness that actually lacks drama.  Another actor may have bene tempted to ‘act it up’ and play the big incantations and demonic influences, but Gunn just faces everything that is literally thrown at him with wry smiles and astonished gasps.  Watch for the excellent incantation scene as he reads Latin off cue cards and even sings. 

The rest of the ensemble cast includes the director Caleb Wells, Courtney Bassett, Iana Grace, Jaime McDermott and Kelaan Schloffel-Armstrong.  Many of these actors you will know for their excellent work with the Young Shakespeare Company, Auckland University Outdoor Shakespeare and Pop Up Globe as well as good dose of LGBT ground-breaking productions.  They handle blank verse and improvisation with astonishing clarity. 

Well prepared, the ensemble cavorts from Angels to Devils to the Seven Deadly Sins to the Pope and Emperor with comedic charm.  There is even a puppet.  I am not too sure why it is there bit it could be developed further.  The audience is just waiting to see what Gunn will do with the temptations they present in the classic story line of Doctor Faustus.

The production is experimental and messy.  At 80 minutes it tends to need a couple of other ‘big event’ scenes to keep me rolling through the 24 years of story.

The Faustus Project has grown from Auckland University Drama Society relationships.  There is rising tide of talented young artists keen to use their excellent tertiary training to be creative, unique and put on a show.  They have a small budget and little ‘design’ money (I am sure they could use some next time). The staging is very basic and simple but fresh, unique and entertaining.

The Faustus Project is a “crazy Experiment” and in the programme they ask for a “little absolution” from the audience.  Be tempted by the audaciousness of the show but there is no need for absolution.  However do say a little prayer for the Guest Actor! 

Future Guest actors are: Natasha Kay Senior, Matthew Kerama, Ryan Dulieu and Jessie Lawrence.


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Hell is Other People

Review by Tim George 31st May 2017

Everybody knows the story of Faust. Smart guy wants to gain more power, conjures the devil, sells his soul and takes too long to understand his folly.

It’s been replayed endlessly, from the original Christopher Marlowe play, through The Devil and Daniel Webster, Frankenstein, and the Al Pacino scream-athon The Devil’s Advocate.

It’s a story that has been played out so long that it arguably takes something else to bring an audience in. The Faustus Project is a re-write of Marlowe’s play, with a twist: the lead actor is different for every show, and has not rehearsed with the rest of the cast. [More


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