A Reinterpreted Production for the Modern Audience
Brimstone Theatre’s Autumn production is the legendary tale of ‘Doctor Faustus’ by Christopher Marlowe. This Elizabethan tragedy is an amazing and subversive story of a man who sells his soul to the devil exchanging 24 years of omnipotence for eternal damnation. The play was Brimstone Theatre’s first foray into theatrical production in 2014 and following its success and that of their subsequent productions, including more recently their sell-out of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, they have decided to dust it off and play it to a wider audience. The timing is somewhat apt given Marlowe’s recent public accreditation with co-writing several Shakespeare plays, which was always one of theatre’s worst-kept secrets.
All is not as it seems though, as director Rowan Dyer explains, since this is not a mere re-enactment of their work from two years ago. Dyer notes that the original production played at Valley Theatre in Childwall to critical acclaim and as such he was always keen to take it to a wider audience. Dyer adds that, except for one member, this is a newly cast production and they are using Marlowe’s own skeleton ‘A text’ which serves as a blueprint to allow a theatre company to creatively explore the deep issues at the heart of this play and with some embellishment allow the audience the luxury of forming their own interpretation. In other words, this is going to be very different as Dyer is keen to further elaborate.
There is a lot of misinformation about this play, much dating from its original performances when tales abounded of real devils appearing, and the mysterious early death of Marlow in 1593 amidst allegations of blasphemy and hereticism, and the suggestion that the play perhaps represents Marlowe’s own descent into hell resulting in his subsequent murder. And whilst there is indeed a story of its time that can be told here, Dyer has an alternative take on matters with this tale of an apparently successful but lonely man, driven to extreme measures to find happiness, an idea that plays out very well in the modern day. Dyer’s decision to take the play ‘out of time’ and focus on the human being at the heart of this play – his actions and behaviours arising from a sense of being more accomplished whilst desperately seeking solace - ring true for the many of us who nowadays sit in isolation behind our computer screens, our primary interactions limited to social media where apparent friends and followers abound.
And so, we are left with questions: does Faustus truly engage with the devil and could he ever if he wanted to? An old Irish saying I grew up with ‘you can’t play cards with the devil, he’ll never deal you a fair hand’ springs to mind. And who is the devil anyway? Or is he just the voices in Faustus’ head spiralling out of control as he loses all semblance of reality? You know those voices, the ones we all hear as we tap-tap-tap away on our screens with little time for the enrichment that true relationships provide. This play works on so many different levels which is exciting as well as intriguing as we are driven to ponder further: who are we? How far would we go in pursuit of something? What price happiness?
Thankfully there are no such problems for Dyer who is supported and surrounded at Brimstone Theatre by some strong names from the Liverpool theatre community – Stephen Tyler-Parke produces and Elaine Louise Stewart is assistant director. Their collaborative approach with their cast and other crew members has resulted in an exciting production that I am looking forward to. How about you? Why not come along and find out.
Doctor Faustus performs at the Black-E from 24th - 26th November 2016.Tickets are available from www.ticketsource.co.uk/Brimstonetheatre as well as from News From Nowhere at 96 Bold Street, Liverpool L1 4HY.
Brimstone Theatre was set up in 2013 by a group of friends interested in exploring darker plays. Productions to date have included Antigone, A Christmas Carol and The Importance of Being Earnest. There are some exciting ideas already being considered for next year. Brimstone Theatre also have a play reading group via their Facebook page which is open to everyone and where an old favourite or something new can be explored. Why not get involved, new faces are always welcome.
The Black-E (formerly The Blackie) was established in the 1960's with a commitment to combine a contemporary arts centre with a community centre. Having taken over the former Great George Street Congregational Church in October 1967, it is considered the UK's first community arts project and a centre where all the arts (performing and making, experimental and traditional) engage with all the people who choose to come through its doors (young and old, disadvantaged and privileged). Further details http://www.theblack-e.co.uk/
Previewer: Mark Davoren