Writer: Christopher Marlowe
Director: Drew Mulligan
Reviewer: Jack Trott
How else would it be fitting to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Christopher Marlowe’s birth by The Marlowe Society of Cambridge University than a staging of his most famous and well know play, Doctor Faustus. The play being the first to be performed by the society in 1907, the most commonly performed and now the very latest, the cast and director, Drew Mulligan, has a lofty and esteemed history to both continue and attain, thankfully this they do.
With slight adaptation to the setting in Cambridge and in a tilt to the actors being drawn from the students of Cambridge University, the prologue opens within the society’s own rehearsal of the play and seamlessly morphs into the original prose of the play proper. As seems popular and fashionable to both directors and audiences in recent years the opening is abrupt and immediately breaks the forth wall, the front of the stage, the barrier between audience and actors and this playful interaction continues throughout. The pace, though starting gently, soon accelerates into an energetic and spell-binding journey through Faustus’ desire for knowledge and hedonism, naively selling his sole to the devil, his delight in his own triumphal power and to his final realisation of the hell he has consigned himself.
Charlie Merriman’s Faustus is word perfect, never dips, a full force of clear, energetic but subtle delivery reminiscent of Hugh Laurie, a fellow Cambridge Footlights acolyte, and on this showing he could follow his footsteps in to a performing career. Faustus’ devilish servant is Emma Powell’s Mephistopheles, mockingly sneering and mischievously arrogant she confidently and menacingly is an equal to Merriman and she could equally become a professional.
Nearly all the cast double-up their rôles flitting believably between rôles whether it be a member if the Hyena pack of sins tempting and arousing Faust or the powerfully acidulous Henry Jenkinson’s Lucifer, they all bring to life their rôles adding to the whole, never dipping in energy.
Mulligan’s directing is both fresh and spirited while tipping his hat to past performances of the society. No dusty hackneyed old play done just-for-the-sake-of, this is the real deal, animated and mettlesome, meritorious of any theatre.
Runs until Saturday 1st February