BWW Review: DOCTOR FAUSTUS, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
In the intimate candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe, Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus has once again been brought to life on the London stage. In this version however, director Paulette Randall has switched the lead's gender, with Jocelyn Jee Esien taking on the role of the ambitious and knowledgeable Faustus.
This gender switch is refreshing - it creates a unique and interesting perspective and Esien is particularly skilled at creating laughs in even the darkest of times. The audience certainly begin to understand her quest for knowledge and desire to continue learning.
Pauline McLynn is cool, calculating and downright sinister as the acid-tongued demon Mephistopheles who stays with Faustus for the 24 agreed years before her soul is taken to hell for eternity. She constantly distracts Faustus whenever she begins to think about turning to God and repenting, expertly keeping her under control while all the time convincing Faustus that she is doing her bidding. Together with Esien, the two form a power duo of sorts - perfectly bouncing off each other during both the comedic and dramatic scenes.
The candle-lit setting helps to create a haunting atmosphere. When Beelzebub (Lily Bevan), Lucifer (Jay Villiers) and Mephistopheles visit Faustus when she threatens to turn to God, the way they hold the candelabras close to their face, producing haunting shadows on their faces adds tension to the scene. The parade of the Seven Deadly Sins is a striking scene, uniquely presented by Randall and the cast, and unlike any I've seen before.
Marlowe's rich text allows directors to take a much more creative stance than a lot of other plays from the same era. Although the story follows Faustus as she sells her soul to the devil in return for conjuring powers and all the knowledge she desires, there's also a comedic element that runs alongside the sinister plot which is played upon much more here than in previous productions.
The entire ensemble are fantastic, however Sarah Amankwah, Louis Maskell and John Leader together create some light hearted moments thanks to their comedic interactions with the audience. If you're sat near the stage, you could suddenly find yourself part of the show - but it's all good natured and the audience certainly seemed to enjoy that aspect of the production.
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner