Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Guy Who Isn't Shakespeare

The Globe is a wonderful theatre - it's both a dream come true and a daunting experience for any actor. We toddled over there on Sunday the 14th to see a production of Christopher Marlowe's "Dr Faustus" starring Paul Hilton as Faustus and the lovely, lovely Arthur Darvill as the evil Mephistopheles. HOORAH! I shouted, ANOTHER DR WHO STAR!, for Darvill is indeed currently fronting a vintage period in Dr Who alongside Matt Smith's 11th Doctor.
The production was rather spectacular. One thing the Globe always does with gusto is costumes, and these were excellent. Darvill's Mephistopheles get-up was really quite yummy, and I think he particularly enjoyed his cape. The various hellish creatures all looked suitably nightmarish and mangled, and Lucifer, who has been depicted so many times in so many different forms, was a triumph. He was in an angel's garb, and only in the end tableau were his wings brought forward, tattered, unused, and yet magnificent. Throughout the play he is crouched, supported by two minor devils with the heads of rhinos, and at the very end he painfully, excruciatingly lifts himself and spreads his arms; the effect is obvious. He appears crucified. And naturally, as well as various devils and demons, Marlowe had to tell us off; the Seven Deadly Sins appear, all in black and red, and to varying degrees of effect. Pride managed to knock a devil's horns askew as she curled around his shoulders; Anger was genuinely frightening; and good old Gluttony managed to get some fart jokes in there.
Humour in such a piece is of great importance - we can only deal with so much fire and brimstone! As in Shakespeare, this is supplied to great effect by the servants (and yes yes, Gluttony's wind problem caused giggles). Pearce Quigley as a deadpan Robin, servant to a servant, had everyone in proverbial stitches, and one line about the French makes me very happy; it's good to know that what made people laugh in the 1500's still makes us laugh today, and it's good that it's still the French, too.
One bit which would have definitely tickled the Protestant Elizabethans fancy was a scene in which the Pope is ridiculed and Rome shown to be the corrupt institute it really was; however, today it doesn't quite have the same effect. It's a bit long, and a bit nothingy, and brings the pace down a bit - my advice would be to cut it, but hey, no one listens to me!

And of course, I have to come back to Arthur Darvill, of course I do. He injected a sort of deadness into Mephistopheles, an emptiness behind the eyes which I thought was really effective (and hey, really attractive too,) and I thought both he and Paul Hilton balanced the act well; at times, Faustus was the master of his Devil, and at others, Mephistopheles simply quietly performed his errands whilst in actual fact, he was ruling the show.
I have called this post, somewhat unfairly, 'The Guy Who Isn't Shakespeare'; poor Marlowe. He was somewhat under the shadow of the Bard for a long period of time. However, I find his language very different. Although it is of course of the time, he isn't as flowery or as affected as Shakespeare; the scenes where Faustus is tormented, or where Mephistopheles very bluntly and harshly admits to being the cause of Faustus' downfall (and doing it gladly) are plainly spoken, and yet still very moving.
It was a fantastic play; I'm surprised that it hasn't been revived sooner! The production itself is spectacular, and even if Shakespeare isn't your thing, try this. It has both a darker tone and a simpler plot; it is simply the human condition - wanting things we cannot have. It is different and magnificent. I loved it.
Ooh, and I met a star! Karen Gillan, the Doctor's other assistant, and wife to Darvill's character Rory, was there showing her support for her colleague. She was lovely and very obliging - I got a signature and a photo! As I was walking away, who should run up to her but Darvill himself; he greeted her with 'Hello, you maniac!'; and I would have asked for his autograph too, but thought it would be too rude to interrupt them. As my friend said 'You thoughtful rabid fan you.'. It's true. I'm too good to them.
Till next time,

West End Girl x


  1. If only I'd seen this on the stage before mu 'O' was masterful and magical

  2. You have brought the production so vividly alive here that I really wish I'd been there too. I'd love to see Arthur Darvill performing on stage - sounds like he handled the role masterfully.