A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Doctor Faustus


Paul Hilton as Faustus in Dr. Faustus at Shakespeare's Globe

Photo by Keith Pattison



by Christopher Marlowe


Director - Matthew Dunster


Designer – Paul Wills

Shakespeare's Globe



A drums and bagpipes ensemble by composer Jules Maxwell opens this production of Doctor Faustus, solemnising the electric atmosphere and inciting an emotional carousel-ride onto which the audience is compelled to follow Faustus (Paul Hilton). The multi-talented supporting cast make the first of their numerous appearances in scholarly attire in a scene which illustrates Faustus' immersion in academic pursuits before he is “ravished” by magic. Before long Faustus has acquired the instructions needed to summon Mephistopheles (Arthur Darvill) and has offered his soul to his master Lucifer in return for “four and twenty years in all voluptuousness” with Mephistopheles as his servant. So begins the terrific spectacle of a life lived in the fantastical, plagued by inevitable doom.

Paul Hilton's Faustus is as intense, arrogant and volatile as the the role requires. He convinces as a pleasure-seeker, adept at ignoring his instinct and casting aside the advice of his good angel (Beatriz Romilly) in favour of instant gratification. The chemistry between Faustus and Mephistopheles is complex and intriguing. In their matching costumes they share moments of real camaraderie, like when ruining Pope Bruno's (Jonathan Cullen) meal as invisible tricksters, but there is an ambivalence and reluctance in their pairing too. Arthur Darvill displays excellent control in maintaining his character's mysteriousness while at the same time asserting a subtle power over Faustus who believes that he is Mephistopheles' current master. Faustus' reliance on Mephistopheles becomes increasingly evident as the play progresses which makes for effective tension at the end of the play when the consequences of the terrible exchange must be realised.

Humour abounds in this production, with slapstick and wordplay employed to wonderful effect. Curious villager Robin (Pearce Quigley) is outstanding, situating himself as the audience's closest ally from the outset. His hilarious anecdotes and attempts at conjuring provide buoyant relief from more gory and challenging scenes. Paired with his sidekick Dick (Richard Clews) a comic pairing that could challenge the buffoonery in any Renaissance drama is realised. There is no shortage of spectacle, elaborate puppets directed by Stephen Tiplady weave through the audience and invade the stage. The sheer quantity of costumes is enough to impress, apparently numbering more than 110, added to this, the intricacy and suitability of each and every one makes this production an absolute triumph for the costume and wardrobe teams headed by Sarah Bowern and Hannah Lobelson respectively.

The capacity of the Globe and the mechanics of the stage are completely utilised. Characters intermingle with the standing audience, monsters and processions make their way through the yard to the stage and trapdoors open for instruments and characters to appear. When the seven deadly sins are summoned to delight Faustus with an enthralling display which culminates in a grotesque orgy, they appear and disappear as by magic through various trapdoors. Musical Director Genevieve Wilkins leads a group of five lively musicians in the delivery of atmospheric and rousing tunes throughout. At intervals throughout the play cast members form an impromptu chorus which joins the band in creating real senses of foreboding and jubilation.

Staged at the Globe for the very first time, this production of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus proves an accomplished and energetic feat. The themes central to the plot, particularly questions surrounding life after death, may not resonate so fiercely with modern audiences as they will have done at the nearby Rose Theatre in 1594, but Matthew Dunster's production rewards its audience with an evening of voluptuousness, no soul-selling required.



Arthur Darvill as Mephistopheles and Paul Hilton as Faustus in Dr. Faustus at Shakespeare's Globe

Photo by Keith Pattison



Box Office: 020 7401 9919
Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT
Tickets: £5 - £37.50

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