THE TRAGEDY OF DOCTOR FAUSTUS
BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
22/06/2017 - 01/07/2017
This word, damnation, terrifies not her…
What’s next when you know everything?
Set in a world of glamour, join us as we travel back to the 20s to the study of Dr Joan Faustus. Having reached the pinnacle of scholarship, Faustus turns to the occult to satisfy her thirst for knowledge, selling her soul to the devil in the process. Watch Faustus over 24 years as she discovers her new found powers. Shunning God she slowly loses her humanity and succumbs to the whim of Lucifer.
Starring Katie Boyle and Tom Kereama, The Tragedy of Dr. Faustus is a comedic tragedy set in the 20s a time of great indulgence. Faustus is the directorial debut of Devon Nuku and of production company Lightbringer Productions.
The Heyday Dome, BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
22 June – 1 July
Tickets $20/$15 bats.co.nz
Faustus: Katie Boyle
Mephistopheles: Tom Kereama
Good/ evil angel: Charlie Potter
Good/ evil angel: Jonathan Ensor
Cornelius/ Robin: Hamish Boyle
Valdes/ Ralph: Hugo Randall
Lucifer/ 7 deadly sins/ Pope: James Bayliss
Wagner/ Vintner/ Horse courser: Jett Ranchod
Scholar/ Friar: Susannah Donovan
Scholar/ Friar: Lyndon Hood
Devil/ Helen of Troy: Charli Gartrell
Devil: Michael Pohl
Production/stage manager: Alida Steemson
Producer/ sfx makeup designer: Jett Ranchhod
Costume designers: Rini Seymour and Kazzy Rose
Set designer: Charlie Potter
Lighting designer: Blue Cronin
Composer/ sound designer: Evee Telfar
Publicist: Alexander Sparrow
1 hr 10 mins
Consistently high quality
Review by Tim Stevenson 24th Jun 2017
A gripping, terrifying story, presented on stage by an excellent local cast. Famous passages of great poetic beauty. A chance to see a work from the top of the classic canon. A window into the strange (to us) religious preoccupations and prejudices of Elizabethan England. All this can be yours, for a trifling sum and a trip to BATS Theatre, where The Tragedy of Dr Faustus is now playing.
Dr Faustus, for the benefit of those of us who managed to dodge Stage 1 English at university, is Christopher Marlowe’s take on one of the great urban myths of the European Renaissance: the story of a brilliant scholar and necromancer who does a deal with the devil, trading his soul for great magical powers while alive on this earth. (It’s a nice thought that there probably was a real Dr Faustus, or Faust; a German scholar and/or magician, described in 1532 by a city official as “the great nigromancer and sodomite”, which sounds even more sinister in German: “dem großen Sodomiten und Nigromantico.”)
With a concept like that, the story pretty well writes itself. You get the moral choice at the start, some tricky bargaining with the devil, or his proxy, the magical powers at work, and then the slow, awful approach of the day of reckoning. All of which must have seemed pretty shocking to an Elizabethan audience brought up to believe in God, angels, Heaven, the devil and Hell, and of course, the immortal soul.
For the entertainment of the anti-Catholics in the audience (hopefully much less common in contemporary New Zealand than they were in Marlowe’s day), the Pope and a couple of friars come in for some rough handling on the way. There are also some comic bits with low servants aping their masters; these are, on the whole, at least as funny as Shakespeare’s.
Directed by Devon Nuku, this material is put across by a cast of such consistently high quality that it’s like a cricket team made up almost entirely of opening batters and demon pace bowlers. Most of the heavy lifting is done by Katie Boyle, as Dr Joan Faustus, and Tom Kereama, as Mephistophilis. Boyle gives us an interesting and intelligent reading of the doctor; her Faustus is insouciant, cynical, jokey, maybe a bit suburban and shallow at the start, and becomes increasingly dark and desperate as the end approaches. It’s a strong, sensitive, well modulated performance, this reviewer’s only reservation being that the magic of Marlowe’s poetry tends to get a bit lost amidst the flippancy.
Mephistophilis is a classic role, one of those suave villains we love to hate, and Kereama storms the part with plenty of confidence, humour and energy. He doesn’t miss a trick, grimace, or insinuating smile along the way, and shows a useful ability to switch from snide to sinister in a moment: this is one mean and scary devil.
It’s a bit unfair to pick favourites amongst such a strong cast, but James Bayliss gives a tour de force performance as the seven deadly sins (he’s also a magnificently over-the-top – in a totally good way – Lucifer), and Hugo Randall (Valdes/Ralph) and Hamish Boyle (Cornelius/Robin) make the most, and a bit more, of the main comic roles.
Special mention also to Jett Ranchhod for the no-holds-barred monster make up, and to Kahurangi Cronin for the fairly ambitious lighting design and for making it work on the night.
The program notes tell us that this production aims to explore the modern world through the lens of the past. Fair enough, but it’s an aim that isn’t exactly helped along by the material which is rooted in, and finds its conflicts amongst, Elizabethan / Christian notions of good and evil. But that’s not much more than an EngLit quibble; by the end of the play, thanks to the skills of author, cast and crew, it’s not modern morality we are concerned with, it’s whether Faustus gets to be torn apart by devils or not. I always hope he’ll make it. Go along and see if he does.
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