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Doctor Faustus 2005 - Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse

'Philip Wilson's all-male production [...] was set in a university library stocked from floor to ceiling with large leather-bound books. The director chose the "A-text" which, he explained in the programme notes, was "shorter, harsher, more focused and altogether more disturbing" than the "B-text" and cut a further 600 lines to give his production a running time of ninety minutes, played without an interval.

The company of eight actors (Nicolas Tennant and Jamie Bamber as Faustus and Mephistopheles respectively with Alan Barnes, Michael Brown, Samuel Collings, Simon Harrison, Daniel Osgerby and Daniel Settatree sharing the rest of the roles between them) approached the text with energy and pace, encouraging the audience to enter the claustrophobic world of their stage. The atmosphere was heightened by the sound effect of a loud clock ticking incessantly as the audience took their seats and stage smoke swirling from the proscenium arch stage, drawing a parallel between the musty library and the impending world of Faustian nightmares.

The costumes reflected the late twentieth-century setting. Faustus, played by Tennant as a shy, nervous, bespectacled "boffin" in brown cord jacket, trousers and tie, was mesmerised by the suave, charismatic figure of Mephistopheles (Bamber) dressed in a loose-fitting blue suit, white T shirt, ID tag neck chain and red and grey trainers. [...] Cornelius (Osgerby) and Valdes (Harrison) wore black academic gowns and Wagner (Brown) a brown duffle coat, red jumper and college scarf. The angels were depicted in traditional angelic garb - white for Good and black for Evil. Lucifer wore a white suit, jewelled pendant and white silk scarf. The seven deadly sins appeared in costumes similar to that worn by Faustus throughout, underlining the notion that he was guilty of each and every one of them. Similarly traditional costume designs, hinting at the timelessness of the work, presented the Pope in full papal regalia, the Duke of Vanholt in Regency dress, Helen of Troy in a white and gold classical gown and Charles V in Elizabethan doublet and hose.

The violence of the play was executed with dexterity. The "pact" between the protagonists was made all the more chilling by Mephistopheles cheerfully holding a cigarette lighter to Faustus' arm to enable a stronger flow of blood with which to sign the contract. [...] The end of the action was similarly compelling. As Faustus burnt his books the whole stage caught fire amid explosions and clouds of thick yellow smoke. The final scene was of the library, still standing, but gutted, with two burning embers in the shape of a crucifix.'

Sue Hall-Smith, RORD 45 (2006), 137-8

Reviews:

Philip Key, Daily Post, 9 February 2005

Joe Riley, Liverpool Daily Echo, 9 February 2005

Alfred Hickling, 'Dr Faustus', The Guardian, 10 February 2005

Lynne Walker, 'Dr Faustus', The Independent, 17 February 2005

Marjorie Bates Murphy, 'Dr Faustus', The Stage, 26 February 2005

John Peter, Sunday Times, 20 March 2005

Chris Hopckins, 'Dr Faustus. Review', Early Modern Literary Studies, 11.1 (May 2005), 15.1-6