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posted/updated: 13 Mar 2014 - edit review / upload photos
Christopher Marlowe. Fourth Monkey Theatre Company in association with The Marlowe Studio.
society/company: Fourth Monkey Theatre Company (student productions) (directory)
performance date: 12 Mar 2014
venue: The Marlowe Theatre - Studio
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin (Sardines review)

The first in a three-play season to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Christopher Marlowe’s birth in Canterbury in 1564, this Faustus is lively, energetic and imaginative. 

Set in the modern world – we start and finish in a 21st century hospital -  the words are nearly all Marlowe’s original text spoken with such clarity and conviction by this talented training company that the story telling is very clear even for newcomers to the play. 

Dr Faustus (Alexandra Reynolds) famously sells her soul to the devil via the charismatically persuasive Mephistopholis (Katherine Turner), has a wonderful time sinning, ultimately regrets it but is damned anyway. Of course it was a religiously subversive play even when it was first written and is very anti-Catholic but even now it has something to say about moral choices. The stereotypes in the hellish but hilarious seven deadly sins sequence are as recognisable as ever. And why not cast both Faustus and Mephistopholis as women if you have a cast of ten women and four men? It works very well with a few pronouns and other words changed here and there to ensure that the text doesn’t contradict the action. 

At the centre of this production is a stellar performance by Alexandra Reynolds. She is passionate, determined, angry, articulate, manic, gleeful and happily manipulative. It’s outstanding work by any standard and I suspect she has a fine career ahead of her as soon as she completes her training. I was only sorry that, because at the end she is soul-less and has lost everything, she isn’t even allowed a curtain call which I think is taking the moral message a step too far. Faustus may be damned but the audience would have welcomed the chance to applaud Reynolds. She is ably complemented by Katherine Turner as a demure looking, girlish, cotton frocked Mephistopolis with her plaits and long white socks – her appearance masking her grinning dastardly purpose. And there is good work from Danny Brown as Wagner,  Reuben Beau Davis as Benvolio and Daniel Christostomou as Lucifer among others. 

The ensemble work is powerful with some really gruesome writhing scenes in hell, fine choreography and a great deal of versatile doubling in minor roles. It feels like a cast of many more than fourteen at times. The set is noteworthy too – upstage scaffolding with cloths and used at several levels. Director, Ailin Connant, also makes use of balconies and stairs through the auditorium to good immersive effect. Congratulations to her and to everyone involved in this engaging, thoughtful show.

Below: Marlowe450 Festival, celebrating 450 years since the birth of the acclaimed playwright and namesake of our theatre, Christopher Marlowe

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