Doctor Faustus Review
Written by: Shalu Mehta
The Department of English at Western University’s production of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is one I found was full of many surprises. As fantastical as the story already is, I really had to make use of my imagination in order to be fully immersed into the play. Nonetheless, once immersed, the events on stage were believable and persuasive as well.
A period production, the first thing I noticed was the minimal set. Wondering whether or not it was going to change or be added to, I soon realized that the excellent use of space and number of actors in the play really made up for the simple set design of a desk, chair and some books. Almost every actor exuded a great deal of presence, focusing attention on the actors rather than the background of the show. What little set and props there were, however, were used methodically to assist the actors and did not seem excess at all.
Jo Devereux, the director, made a performance choice of using four different actors to play Faustus. While slightly confusing between Acts I and II, each Faustus transitioned into the play very well afterward and the performance choice accentuated the change Faustus himself underwent as the show carried on.
David DiBrina did a fabulous job as Faustus Number One, opening the show with his strong stage presence and wonderful interaction with props. His expressions were a joy to watch. John Wu was also a strong choice as Faustus Number Two. A rather emotional actor, he played Faustus well as he signed the blood oath with the devil. Chanelle Robinson, though female, proved to be a good match to Wu and DiBrena after intermission. Being female clearly wasn’t a deterrence for her. Rachel Horrocks, the last Faustus was the weakest of the four. Although she was portraying the character of Faustus to be weak, her presence shouldn’t have been. Though her emotions and English accent were compelling, I found it hard to keep focus towards the end. The four of them were presented together in a wonderful scene displaying the unity between the actors playing Doctor Faustus. Not only did it show the audience what was to come, it helped in understanding the four as Faustus as well.
As for the costumes, there were many beautiful period ensembles worn by characters such as The Chorus (Alma Mux Wahl) and Helen of Troy (Brianne Pollard). Some of the masks, however, like the one worn by Mephastophilis (John Hunter) could have been a little less “Halloween-like” as it made a scary character, like his, seem more like a gag. The Good Angel (Waylon Skinner) did indeed look angelic but his halo seemed as if it was plucked off a Christmas tree. Besides those two criticisms however, the rest of the costumes were done well and suited each character perfectly.
John Hunter as Mephastophilis was a great choice as his deep voice and stagnant behaviour was perfect for the role of this creature from Hell. Wagner, played by Andrea Holstein, was also very sassy and hilarious as were Belcher (Ace Gammon-Burnett) and Rafe (Amanda Singh). Lucifer, played by Helga Ruppe, could have been slightly more menacing in my opinion as such a dark Mephastophilis preceded him.
Throughout the play, Eugene Leung, Jess Martin and Hana Elniwairi used music and lighting expertly by to initiate scene (and Faustus) changes as well as the dark incantations and magic throughout the show. Various scenes were highlighted very well by these choices and they added to the fantastic elements of the play.
One of the Scholars, towards the end of the play says “methinks thy looks have changed” to Doctor Faustus and I believe these words were taken literally to the stage. In a wonderful and fluid performance combining comedy, magic and finally, tragedy, Doctor Faustus was executed beautifully and proved to be an entertaining show.
Don’t miss the last two nights of Faustus at the McManus Studio Theatre November 7th and 8th at 7:30 pm!