Thurs – Sun 8pm
Tickets: £5 – £6
Most productions of Faust run, I’m told, for just over five hours. You’ll be happy to know this one doesn’t, but after just a few minutes I’m convinced I could sit through almost as much.
Max Gallien explains his interest in a play which is seldom performed, when the comparative success of, for example, Christopher Marlowe’s earlier Dr Faustus is seen. Faust will make for interesting viewingfor the open-minded audience, if only to witness Gallien’s own interpretation of what needs to remain in the text and what can be omitted: he spent what he ominously describes as “the whole winter” cutting it down.
Faust tells the story of Mephistopheles and his attempts to bring God’s favourite human – Faust – from favour. Faust himself is the embodiment of the slightly cringey, overly-sincere Oxford type, constantly striving for a complete knowledge of the world. The academic and religious aspects are effectively balanced with the ‘love’ which develops between Faust and Gretchen, a (previously) virtuous young girl. Faust forces the audience to consider the parodies which emerge as the play progresses: as Gallien aptly puts it, is it “the tragedy of a restless academic and the story of the corruption and downfall of an honest girl…An homage to curiosity and the human strive for knowledge and advancement, or a warning about the acceleration of time, the forces of modernity” or, ultimately, “a life lived badly?”
Flora Zackon’s superb portrayal Mephistopheles combines intensely expressive body language, with a nice range of vocal nuance to suggest the complexity of the character’s evil. She’s well-balanced by Phil Gemmell as the confused, debatably sympathetic Faust, whose timing and deliverance allow for occasionally hilarious dialogue between the two.
The decision to stage Faust in the chapel at Queen’s is inherent to the subject matter – themes which resonate within undergraduate life seem appropriately placed within its echoing walls. What’s most impressive in terms of its location, however, is the use of a choral accompaniment, which make for poignant and eerily beautiful musical interludes.
This is a must-see for those keen for something a bit different – Faust opens in the Queen’s Chapel in 6th week and will certainly provide a very watchable piece of alternative theatre. The Thursday to Saturday shows have now sold out. There will be an additional performance on Sunday of 6th week at 8.30pm.