Dr Faustus (2007)
Directed by Maria Bates
“Nothing so sweet as magic is to him, which he prefers before his chiefest bliss. And this the man that in his study sits”
Welcome to the land of illusion, a place in the mind, a shimmering mirage of riches and mystery and death. Within the walls of Faust’s opulent gothic mansion an orgy of evil is about to begin.
Profane, irreverent and sexy yet daring to make you ponder philosophical arguments that have troubled Man since the beginning of time. God, freewill and the everlasting torments of Hell! A macabre burlesque of mad magic, visual mayhem, pole dancing devils, sword fighting angels, blood, fire and crazy puppets. Expect the unexpected!
The director, cast and crew would like to offer special thanks to Simon Drake and his House Of Magic team for their invaluable help and support with this production.
To find out more about Simon Drakes's spectacular House Of Magic and book tickets for his show visit: Simon Drakes's House Of Magic
- Dr Faustus - Ed Cartwright
- Female Mephistophilis - Helen Chadney
- Male Mephistophilis - Andy Davies
- Good Angel/Duchess/Nun - Caroline Doyle
- Evil Angel - Catherine Ellis
- Horse Courser/Pope/Puppeteer - David Ewings
- Emperor/Puppeteer - Alan Buckman
- Duke/Puppeteer - James Hough
- High Priestess/poi - Michelle Thomson
- Director - Maria Bates
- Assistant Director - David Lomas
- Fight Director - Anton Krause
- Stage / Production Manager - Graham Clements
- Assistant Stage Manager - Lauri Morgan
- Lighting Design - Stuart Draper and Neil Carmichael
- Lighting Operator - Christian Murphy
- Composer and Sound Engineer - Gerard Johnson
- Set Design - Maria Bates and Alan Buckman
- Set construction - Graham Clements, Matthew Lyne, Mike Elliott and the cast and crew
- Scenic Artist - Hazel Hindle
- Choreography - Juliette Stark
- Costume Co-ordinator - Michelle Thomson
- Show Photographs - Christopher Vian-Smith
- Magic Consultant - Simon Drake
- Puppets - Alan Buckman, Val Williams and Maria Bates
- Still Life - Michael Wilson
- Medical Specimen Jars - Sharon Kaye
- Pop-Up Book - Dave Hollander
- Props - Alan Buckman
- Poster Illustration - Hazel Hindle
- Programme Design - Maria Bates
Doctor, philosopher and theologian, Faustus is lonely and isolated, a man whose intelligence is unrivalled yet he finds it difficult and almost pointless to communicate with others, therefore he surrounds himself with books instead of friends.
He lives in an opulent Gothic mansion but inhabits just one room.
Fiercely proud, able to cure plague, a master of words and philosophy, yet still he cannot find the things he really craves: love and companionship. Almost suicidal, he embarks on a path of self-destruction.
Obsessed with necromancy and the dark arts he experiments, using his soul as the currency to investigate if there's anything else worth living for.
A self-induced mania begins, akin to the adrenaline rush of driving a fast car with reckless intent. Taking each corner faster and faster, seeing how close to the edge he can push, before the inevitable crash and burn.
If freedom is man’s greatest gift then why are we taught that God owns all in man that is everlasting?
At first it seems paradoxical that Marlowe, a man arrested for being an atheist, should create a play whose central character wrestles with God and the Devil.
How much would you sell your soul for?
Is it possible to ponder this question without considering whether you know which currency you are dealing in or if you even have anything worthwhile to sell?
Possibly the play is about a man rejecting any notion of there being an afterlife or a reality other than the one he currently lives and breathes.
Faustus is tormented because he is unable to delude himself about his own mortality in the way his peers, the church and the law of the land at the time demand of him.
Could this be how Marlowe felt himself?
God seems to offer Faustus everything he could want tomorrow if he is able to love and trust in him exclusively today but Faustus believes that tomorrow will never come. The Devil (or his addiction) offers him everything he wants today so that he can forget about tomorrow. It is no great surprise then, that he chooses the option of selling his soul.
Faustus' personal journey, and how an audience may differ in their perception of his final damnation according to their own religious beliefs, also provides another source of interest.
Our adaptation sets out to explore these aspects of the play, together with the idea of illusion and delusion being omnipresent in everyone's lives.
How many of us spend time deluding ourselves with the fantasy of what might be rather than seeing exactly what we have?
To look at conflict within the enigmatic figure of Mephistophilis and to allow this seductively flexible spirit to assume more than one form, we have chosen to split his role in two. Both actors are Mephistophilis but they represent differing sides of the fallen angel; doubt and certainty, repentance and resolution, desperation and cold resolve.
The idea of Mephistophilis being a fallen Angel also threw up many questions for us:
How does the Good Angel feel about the fall of Mephistophilis?
How does Mephistophilis feel about his fall? Does Mephistophilis ever want to repent or is he simply content collecting souls? Could this be the dichotomy that has split his soul in two?
How close was the Good Angel herself to falling?
What exactly are the pains of damnation and how could an all-loving God allow any soul to suffer them?
We hope our audience will attempt to answer these questions for themselves, in their own minds, with their own demons, own angels and own hopes to guide them.
As a director it has been a tremendous pleasure to work with such an intelligent and dedicated cast and a backstage team with so many amazing talents from scenic art to lighting design, that have helped to bring our ideas to the stage and have made this a real ensemble piece.
I’m ashamed to say that last week’s production of Dr Faustus was the first thing I’ve seen at West Norwood’s South London Theatre (SLT), writes Mark Campbell.
But judging by the creative energy on offer, it definitely won’t be the last.
Christopher Marlowe’s version of the German legend was adapted and directed by talented SLT member Maria Bates, with portions of the drier material pared down and some fascinating new twists added.
Ed Cartwright’s foppish, Hugh Grant-like Dr Faustus begins as an almost androgynous figure perched alone in his gloomy Gothic study, surrounded by all the accoutrements of the Black Arts.
He is visited by a sexually alluring male and female Mephostophilis, both dressed in black leather, who offer him the chance to have every desire fulfilled providing he sells his soul to the Devil.
His descent into madness is accompanied by all manner of ingenious theatre tricks, courtesy of professional magician Simon Drake. The demonstration of the Seven Deadly Sins, for example, was brilliantly depicted.
As the female tempter, the velvety voiced Helen Chadney was voluptuously sexy. Andy Davies as her male alter ego was less obviously carnal but still swaggeringly louche in his long, black coat.
Michelle Thomson, the provocative High Priestess, shared lesbian kisses with Helen Chadney, while Catherine Ellis in PVC basque and high heels camped up the role of the Evil Angel, opposite Caroline Doyle’s demure, pre-Raphaelite Good Angel.
Faustus’ Gothic room, designed by Maria Bates and Alan Buckman and beautifully painted by Hazel Hindle, was as stunning as a Georges Méliès silent film set, with excellent use made of props, furniture and dressing.
Special mention must go to Gerard Johnson’s circus-inspired electronic music, written specifically for the performance. Together with his inventive lighting effects, this made a huge contribution to the burlesque atmosphere of the show.
Bondage, S&M, fetishism, lesbianism, grotesque puppetry and full frontal male nudity - it was all here; although none of it ever felt gratuitous.
Dr Faustus was a sexy and scary magical treat that astonished, amused and entertained in equal measure. Unmissable.
Mark Campbell (Bromley Times)
DIRECTOR Maria Bates' version of Dr Faustus sparkled and this was the best production I have seen this year.
It had a great Gothic-looking set which was eerily lit, and a variety of sound effects and props which never missed a cue.
This cautionary tale is about a man who sells his soul to the devil. Not a cheerful thought but haven't we all done so at some time? The play's message comes across clearly, and the fun that is had at the expense of the Pope among others still amuses.
I liked the concept of a male and female Mephistopheles, the former suavely played by Andy Davies and the latter by the silky and voluptuous Helen Chadney.
David Ewings was an excellent Horse Courser with the 'begorrah' of an accent but perhaps too shrill as the Pope.
Caroline Doyle had the difficult part of making purity attractive as the good angel and Catherine Ellis made the most of her role as the opposite number.
Ed Cartwright was simply superb as Faustus with his acting ranging from comedy to horror as the prospect of eternal damnation loomed before him.
Peter Steptoe (Croydon Advertiser)
A clear vision of what Maria wanted to achieve has led to a very tight and imaginative production.
When undertaking an adaptation you always need to ask yourself what you want to achieve.
Hearing about Maria's ideas throughout late last year it was obvious that she had always wanted to produce something that was heavily influenced by illusion and dark magic; and used many stage craft techniques to assist with the story.
Strangely enough though it wasn't the illusions that I enjoyed the most but by the performances of the actors. I had seen Ed Cartwright in Mark Davies's production of 'The fall of the house of Usher' and already had become one of his admirers. He has a great control of the spoken word and his physciality on stage and presence is very assured. The way the piece is written it is hard to sway the audience to feel pity for you when you have sealed your own downfall BUT Ed pulls it off remarkbly well. He's obviously a team-player and gives alot to anyone on stage with him.
Helen Chadney has pleasently surprised me this year as I hadn't seen her in much until The Crucible. Her attention to detail physically when playing the demon is disturbingly unhinging at times. Her almost doll-like behaviour near the beginning of the play by tilting her head and eyes is errie to say the least. And her commanding sexuality throughout the play was well PHOARRR!! That's the best word I could think up.
Her counterpart Andy Davies was equally strong and commanding but with a more vulnerable side. I loved the change-over when Faustus has signed the deed. Enough to shock any red-blooded male. Andy is a worthy addition to the hugley strong 20 something talent that we have at SLT which makes the future look great for future seasons.
When they both came together with their faces almost joining they did seemingly appear as the same person.
And then there was... The evil angel who quite frankly knocked my socks off and then run them across my face And then shouted 'Want some more?' (Should I be saying that?) Catherine Ellis was a devlish joy to watch and I simply loved her physicality on stage that at times really was pure temptation and evil incarnate. Where's that Pentacle and Salt I say! Catherine is incredibly powerful on stage not simply as a tool of temptation but her ability to disguise herself into other souless forms was superb. She obviously lives to perform and her flexiblity of character stood out a mile. Not sure what she's in next but I have a feeling she would go from Classical to Gritty Contemporary drama seemlessly.
Caroline Doyle is the voice of reason as the Good Angel and has a tough tough task in having any hope of saving Faustus. The slightly unhinged way that she played the angel seems like she may have been tainted at sometime as well OR is always struggling with her own conscience. I loved the way she popped up when it was getting particulary nasty (evil, good; they are quite close in my eyes) and warn Faustus over his actions. But Marlowe was obviously far more tempted by the darkside becuase she was written rather weakly in my eyes and no fault of Caroline. A version I was in had the Good Angel as a terminally ill patient with a drip attached. I think without detracting it was simliar in it's effect.
The space was used very well and the stagecraft has obviosuly taken careful preparation and thought.
Some of the lighting setups are visually stunning, and the orange flames are a beautiful touch.
The biggest plaudits must go to the construction team and artists. It's like walking into a setup in every gothic pictureshow I've ever seen. A fine mix between Victorian and Contemprary themes sets the play in a timeless world where Demons walk and weak men are swept away away by romantic angels of death. Oooo it's juicy. It's sumptous. It's dark chocolate melting on Marshmallows.
I'm not going to ruin the magic any longer.
A fine production, that stuck to it's guns and knew what it wanted to do.
I did feel that it was slightly disjointed at times in it's transition between wanting to sell his soul and realising he was going to go to hell. And a few other little directing interpretaions that I had seen differntly but I have already said my piece to the Director about.
My only regret is that I'm not backstage helping with the costumes!!!!
Grab your tickets before they are all gone!
I'm going to be really pathetic and agree with a lot of what has been said above!
As I said previously, there's a huge amount of commitment in this play -- and Maria must be over-the-Moon with the passion and commitment of her cast and crew in realising something that she has been working on for some time.
I felt the same way about The Dust Collectors. A new, and far from perfect piece of writing, and yet people simply threw themselves into it. Swells one's heart with pride.
I think that is one thing that frequently distinguishes us as a company: the commitment to doing things as directed, while also offering creative input from within cast and crew. That's something to be collectively proud of as an SLT member. I'm sure other groups experience the same positive attitude in amateur / non-pro circles. It means that 'amateur' can be more 'professional' than professional. If that makes sense.
I've seen the production twice, and I have to admit I'm still making up my mind about a lot of it. Which is not to say I am forging criticsims.
But here's one thing I keep coming back to in my mind...
"Golly... I'd love to see the same thing done in Prompt Corner..."
The idea of a magical cabaret where everything is going on around you, and you are participating in Faustus' downfall.
Maria, maybe you could think about a transfer of the idea to a studio space..?
Having been involved in a very small way with the cast and with Maria and Anton I was allowed to see some of the rehearsals and so thought I knew what was coming.
Boy was I wrong, all that has been said before goes for me as well. Also being of a cynical nature I tend to look at things and try to second guess the director and playwright. Well there I was second guessing Maria who had third and forth guessed me.
I had already said we would need bouncers to keep the male audience off the girls. Bouncers more like the army. Helen was incredibly sexy; Caroline was forever fighting a losing battle and looked suitably demure at times and seductive at others. The dark angel can join my coven at any time and the rest of the cast were just great.
The puppets were for me a little of a letdown though the way they appeared from different places was fun, I tried to guess where the next one was going to appear from. Again Helen with her whip, wow.
Altogether well worth the visit.
The cast of course were great, Maria’s direction was tight but with enough give so the actors could stamp their personalities on the parts, and the unsung hero’s the backstage crew, well done to all.
I hope to direct myself at some stage and this has given me a lot to think on.
One final thing, I’m not too sure about trying to chat up sword wielding girls.
Well worth seeing, excellent production values, cracking performances and huge committment all round. I wouldn't have missed this for the world. One thing that really stood out for me also was the sheer quality of Marlow's writing - clear, concise and beautiful. What would have happened if he hadn't been murdered?
Reminiscences and Anecdotes
Members are encouraged to write about their experiences of working on or seeing this production. Please leave your name. Anonymous entries may be deleted.
Have there been other SLT productions of this play? Link to them here.
Or add anything that is related within this site. The author's page for instance or other plays with a similar theme.