Faustus

Tue 5th – Sat 9th November 2013

reviews

Elizabeth Crowdy

at 23:59 on 5th Nov 2013

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The fireworks of Midsummer Common sadly did not give a cause for Queens’ Fitzpatrick Theatre to celebrate: the audience was considerably dwindled by the Bonfire Night Festivities, making for a quiet auditorium on the opening night of Faustus. However, this did not get in the way of the cast making a valiant effort at transporting Marlowe’s play to 1986 Cambridge.

The set was striking, with books transforming the central desk into a small fortress. The pleasing combination of literature and alcohol was extremely effective in portraying the bedroom of the average tripos student, with the addition of Cornelius the skeleton looking barely out of place. It was a visually complex set, which proved both a blessing and a curse as it provided much for the audience to look at, but at times was distracting. There were times where the sheer volume of props overwhelmed the action, although this did serve to mirror the confused and cluttered state of Faustus’ mind.

The choice of 1986 Cambridge as a set for the 16th century play was a relevant choice for the student dominated audience, as many parts of Faustus’ frustration came close (almost uncomfortably so) to the stress we have all felt when confronted with a particularly fiendish essay. The characters of Ralph and Robin (Mikael Astrand and Sam Clayton) were stereotypical “posh” Cambridge students, complete with jumpers draped around their shoulders, and the addition of a bedder and awful club scene completed the image. It is often worrying how near to Hell Cambridge clubs can feel, a fact which did not escape director David Tremain. However, the explanation of the deadly sins was completely drowned out by the loud music playing, sadly forcing the audience to choose between fruitlessly craning forwards or patiently sitting and waiting for the next scene. Despite this, “Wrath”, played by Tara Kearney is to be commended on her ability to make herself heard perfectly.

The acting was generally of a good standard, with Tristram Fane-Saunders standing out as an excellent Mephistopheles. His balletic movement around the stage was captivating, especially when paired with his spectacular eyebrow control. Douglas Tawn also cut a dashing figure as a distainful, languid Lucifer, with Peter Martin as a suitably dazed and overworked Faustus causing his friends concern. The Pope and Friars created an amusing image, although the costumes looked distinctly like they had been fished out of Oxfam, and were not set off well by the loafers left over from the previous scene poking out from the bottom of their cassocks.

Although there were few moments where I felt truly disconcerted in this play, the overall impression it created was a successful parody of Cambridge life, and certainly resonated with me as a student. There have been many times when I have felt like throwing my books on the floor and pouring whiskey down my throat in a similar fashion, and I am certain that I am not alone in this in the student community. This production may not have depicted Faustus in quite the way Marlowe had in mind when he walked these streets in the 1500s, yet it certainly encapsulated the modern Cambridge mentality.

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