DramaReviewSouth West

Doctor Faustus – The Bikeshed, Exeter

Writer: Christopher Marlowe

Director: Anna Coombs


Reviewer: Gareth Roberts

Tangle’s assured and confident production of Doctor Faustus compresses Marlowe’s drama to a cast of three and a running time of 90 minutes, without feeling rushed or excessively minimalized. The cast is highly effective in a small space and a strong production design amplifies their efforts.

On account of the small cast, the production relies on actors taking on multiple roles, playing a variety of spirits, servants and scholars. Each character is deftly and economically sketched with distinct mannerisms that serve to easily differentiate them. Mogali Masuku is phenomenally effective as Faust’s demonic companion Mestophiles, capturing the character’s shifts from supernatural servant to hellish tormentor. Thanks to careful performances and clever use of props, the terrifying nature of the creatures that Faust consorts with, is conveyed easily and effectively to the audience. Indeed, the clever and inventive use of sound and lighting brings a deeply unsettling mood to almost all interactions, conveying the unsettling nature of Faust as a man whose damnation is inevitable.

Despite this also has a lighter side, and the scenes with Faust’s comically inept servants are refreshing and genuinely funny. The ambitious but incompetent Robin is a rather brilliant creation and his summoning of a demon is particularly hilarious as a creature of utmost evil finds itself confronted by an idiot whose soul seems barely worth the effort of claiming. The scenes offer a judicious lightness and prevent the play from overemphasizing Faust’s agonizing. However, they are also somewhat unconnected; they sometimes feel extraneous and irrelevant.

For the most part, the edits made to Marlowe’s text are seamless and barely noticeable, although Faust’s rise and fall is, perhaps a little too rapid to seem plausible. Furthermore, despite the cast’s effective use of the set, there is a sense of them exhausting options as the performance progresses. There are only so many plausible ways that the space can be used, something which the cluttered set design reduces further, and at times sequences feel physically repetitive.

Tangle bring an impressive energy and considerable style to their performance. The cast tackles the constant shifting of roles with ease. However, the play itself is sometimes incoherent and the cluttered set with little space is a serious hindrance at times.

Runs until 24th February 2018 | Image: Contributed

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Stylish, small-scale

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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