Published On: Fri, Apr 27th, 2012

Doctor Faustus, Theatre Review. Stanley Theatre, Liverpool Guild of Students.

L.S. Media Rating: *****

Cast: Barney Eliot, Lauren Steel, Jamie Macdougal, Meave Sullivan, Danny Partington, Adam Scott, Bryony Holloway, Charli Wilson, Lara Hendrickse, Helen Goaley, Sophie Kavanagh, Katherine Wright

Crew: Christopher Worrall and Liss Farrell (Directors), Frances Greenfield (Stage Manager)

This exceptional LUDS production is a chilling portrayal of Marlowe’s classic play, Doctor Faustus. Opting for a bare stage, simple props and smart black and white costumes for all involved, this spectacular creation came purely from the compelling performances of this extremely talented cast.

As the audience are dramatically plunged into darkness without any warning, the performance begins, the low mood lighting on the stage combined with the echoes in The Stanley Theatre sets the tone for what is to follow. John Faustus is a leading intellectual of his day, but he cannot resist the temptation of knowing more. Using the dark art of necromancy, Faustus summons Mephistopheles, a spirit sent by the devil to do Faustus’ bidding, in exchange for his soul.

From the moment Faustus enters the stage, he captivates the audiences’ attention, and instantly draws the crowd into his quest for knowledge, ultimate power and wealth. Faustus goes through the play being torn between a good and evil angel, salvation and damnation. The shadows created by the low lighting complement the action perfectly; Doctor Faustus is a sinister play about dark deeds.

Low murmurs of laughter are heard throughout, especially during scenes with Mephistopheles’ (Lauren Steel) menacing presence lurking in the shadows catching Faustus unaware, or with the animated performance of the seven deadly sins (Jamie Macdougall), who goes onto break the illusion of theatre with force, by storming into the audience after being commanded by Lucifer. Aside from this, the audience are largely silent; the tension builds as the play explores the darker depths of desire.

After the interval, the lighting on the stage is even dimmer, creating an even darker mood, as time is ticking away for Faustus, now a broken man. Once again, he attempts to repent, but cannot endure the excruciating pain that Lucifer inflicts upon him. The appearance of Helen of Troy was truly haunting, as Faustus desperately clings to her before his final moments. Faustus is left alone, as the hiss of whispers of his fellow scholars praying for his soul can be heard off stage.

The intensity of Barney Eliot’s portrayal of Faustus was truly outstanding; leaving audiences holding their breath; a chilling silence spreads through the room as he frantically contemplates how to save himself from eternal damnation. The curtain closes, and enthusiastic applause and cheers erupt at this excellent performance. The efforts of all involved is a true credit to the drama society; a fabulously intense and gripping production!

About the Author

- Simal is studying for an MA in Renaissance and 18th Century Literature. She loves how cultured Liverpool is and intends to take full advantage of it in her final year in the city. Originally from Shakespeare’s County, she enjoys having her head in a good book or watching an engaging play.