Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (Directed by Paulette Randal, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)
I’d managed to forget that Pauline McLynn was in this as Mephistopheles — which is just as well as I would have been channelling Mrs Doyle. “Ah will you not sell your soul, Father Dougal? Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on… Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…” It does make sense in retrospect — she brings a grotesquery to the role, as well as a cat who has got the cream (with or without tea), as she knows what is to come. There is also a moment when she licks the knife Faustus has used to get blood to sign with — and I’m reminded of Gary Oldman’s Dracula licking Keannu Reeves’s Harker’s cut-throat razor. There is even a physical resemblance.
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I don’t think I’ve had a love affair with Shakespeare.
To me Marlowe is always THE playwright. Although I’m ashamed to note how few of his plays I have seen live.
There’s someone about the Bard that has always felt overwhelming, too much baggage, too much Other People’s Property. There’s his centrality to English Literature — I don’t think you could do O Level (now GCSE) or A Level without him. He even showed up in my Drama O Level. The Bard seemed to induce in me a critical cringe – how can you say anything new about him? With Marlowe, on the other hand, I can see the way the plays sometimes clank, and the critical editions tend to be more honest about editorial and other interpolations.
It perhaps should be no surprise that my viewing of Shakespeare’s plays in the theatre has been impacted on by set texts. Continue reading →