Christopher Marlowe’s re-telling of the Faust legend is a theatrical extravaganza, and Toby Frow’s vibrant in-the-round production at the Royal Exchange uses puppetry, masks and magic tricks to fill the stage with an unforgettable pageant of angels, devils, spirits and vices.
John Faustus is a German scholar who has become bored by conventional studies in theology, natural sciences and philosophy, and forsakes them for the intellectual challenge of necromancy and its rewards - even at the risk of eternal damnation. Patrick O’Kane powerfully conveys the character’s internal conflict as Faustus struggles intermittently with his conscience, and if his descent into puerile trickery and practical jokes leaves us with the impression of Derren Brown in a doublet then that is Marlowe’s fault.
Ian Redford’s trilby-wearing Mephistopheles is an Anglican version of Father Brown, stuffy, middle-aged and pompous, an interpretation which completely ignores the depths and contradictions within the character. However Stephen Hudson is louche and quietly wicked as Faustus’s servant Wagner, and Rory Murphy makes an excellent professional stage debut with a genuinely funny turn as the dim-witted clown Robin.
The cast is swollen by an enthusiastic ensemble of acting students from Manchester Metropolitan University who throw themselves wholeheartedly into the endless orgies, fights and scenes of general depravity.
Designer Ben Stones’ imaginative giant puppets and masks, coupled with Mark Jonathan’s atmospheric lighting and Richard Hammerton’s evocative sound design, make for a night of amazing spectacle.
Doctor Faustus is on until Saturday 9 October 2010
Evenings: Mon-Fri @ 7.30, Sat @ 8pm [no performance Tues 21 Sept]
Matinees: Wed @ 2.30pm, Sat @ 4pm and Tues 21 Sept @ 2.30pm
Box Office: 0161 833 9833