I recently managed to see the Globe’s production of Doctor Faustus at a local cinema (Globe Onscreen is this brilliant initiative that allows you to view a stage production in the comfort of an Odeon or Vue, complete with popcorn).
All I can say is: WOW. Seriously. Doctor Faustus is perhaps one of my favourite early modern plays. It’s a weird mix of medieval morality and burgeoning renaissance interiority, plus it has demons, devils and necromancy. Christopher Marlowe’s play follows the story of an arrogant and clever scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for power, wealth and most importantly knowledge. But after his twenty-four years are up the prospect of spending an eternity in hell doesn’t seem quite so attractive.
Matthew Dunster’s production is a complete baroque spectacle. The comic scenes are pushed right to the forefront in all their ribald and Bakhtinian excesses, while the scenes between Faustus and Mephastophilis alternate between a kind of budding bromance and chilling master/slave relationship. Arthur Darvill plays Mephastophilis, thrown out of heaven for conspiring with Lucifer against God. He’s deceptively gentle, waiting till the end to show his true metal. Paul Hilton is a kind of world-weary, down-to-earth Faustus. He rolls out Marlowe’s mighty lines like he’s reciting it to some mates down the pub, but I kinda like it - Faustus as one of us. This pair is a kind of odd couple, bounding around the stage doing all sorts of hi-jinks. They even wear matching skull caps and red capes at one point – uncanny doubles of each other. Their buddy relationship is so disarming that it genuinely shocks when you realise Mephisto still is very much Satan’s minion. It’s a really visual and mesmerising production all round. The good angel and evil angel are dramatised almost like anime characters; they run onto the stage, performing high kicks and screams that wouldn’t look out of place in Mortal Kombat, and we get an actual dragon. Yes, a dragon.
And Lucifer – words cannot describe how AMAZING he is. He’s actually a satyr, a dirty old man-goat lurching and leering around the stage, rubbing his grubby paws up and down his legs at the thought of Faustus’ lovely soul (all swollen with pride - extra yummy). Watching the final horrifying scene as Faustus realises his time is up and he panics, while Lucifer gloats at the side of the stage is totally disturbing and aided by increasingly increasingly chaotic music (Dunster’s production follows Text B rather than the shorter Text A. In Text A Faustus is alone for most of the final scene). And finally, Faustus is dragged to hell. Well, he kind of crowd surfs actually, physically hoisted up and carried in through those gates by all of Lucifer’s cronies (they carry freaky puppets that they stretch and torture).
Being a Globe production we get a little dance at the end too; Faustus and Mephisto jam together on guitar. I like to imagine them together, down in hell talking over old times. What more could you want?