Rosalie Falla reviews The Student Workshop’s newest production.
Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is not a play usually considered a comedy, but Rafael Aptroot and Saxon Rose’s production manages to swing from raucous laughter to deeply dark moments.
The Elizabethan tragedy follows the demise of Faustus as he takes up the dark art of necromancy, selling his soul to Lucifer in exchange for 24 years of life with a devil as his servant, Mephistopheles.
Faustus, played by the wonderful Jack Read, does not use his magic for anything worthwhile, instead playing practical jokes on powerful people. The oft-left out Pope scene had the audience in fits of laughter, with Eleanor Cobb’s papal figure stealing the scene with some outstanding facial expressions. Another comedic moment was the entrance of the seven deadly sins brought to life by the multi-role cast; Harry Jephart’s leather-trousered personification of lechery was a comic highpoint.
A particular mention must go out to Lucifer, played by Emily Young, who commanded the stage with such ease that the audience were as terrified as Faustus himself. Her companion, Azan Ahmed, was the most embodied person on stage, exploring the German Expressionism concept with ease. Read’s Faustus and Joshua Buttery-Clements’ Mephistopheles remain in perfect balance throughout, a power-struggle that these seasoned actors tackled with ease. Any fan of Royal Holloway theatre will recognise these two from previous productions and it was great to see them perform together supported by such a strong ensemble.
The physical theatre, while atmospheric, felt a little too long at times, however, when one is given the Caryl Churchill Theatre it would be a shame not to indulge in the space. All in all, this was a production of Faustus unlike any I have seen before: engaging, funny and frightening all at once. Don’t miss the final performance this evening at 7pm.