Distinctive amateur drama
in Northampton since 1932
Registered Charity No. 294848
The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus
by Christopher Marlowe
Cast & Crew
Dr John Faustus Matthew Fell
Mephostophiles Barry Dougall
Chorus/Scholar 1/Devil Baliol/A Devil/’Wife’/Sloth/Robin Becki Allan
Chorus/Valdes/Lucifer/Friar/Vintner/Horse Courser David Chappell
Chorus/Evil Angel/Gluttony/Friar/Alexander the Great/Duke of Vanholt Brian Harrap
Chorus/Clown/Pride/Pope/Emperor Barry Hillman
Chorus/Scholar 2/Devil Belcher/Lechery/Cardinal/Paramour/Duchess of Vanholt Claire MacFeeley
Chorus/Wagner/Envy/Ralph/Helen William Morgan
Chorus/Good Angel/Wrath/Friar/Knight Kevin Pinks
Chorus/Cornelius/Covetousness/Friar/Old Man Owen Warr
Director Bob Godfrey
Costume Manager Clare Brittain, supported by Pam Mann and The Works
Make-up Tamsyn Payne
Set Construction Mark Mortimer
Front of House Manager/Set Assistant Rob Kendall
Lighting Design Gene Lenahan, supported by Richard Walker and The Works
Sound Technician Joel Ringrose
Continuity Jean Edwards
Stage Managers Jason Cunnington, Benjamin Dotan, Suzanne Richards
Matthew Fell as Dr Faustus. Photo by David Dunkley
Production No. 362
Bob Godfrey, director
“A sound magician is a demi-god;
Here tire my brains to get a deity”
The first recorded performance of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus was 30th September 1594.
The takings that day at the Rose Theatre were £3.12s (£3,500 –£4,000), the highest for any single performance to that date, and possibly representing an audience of 700-800 people.
The story was already well known in Marlowe’s time and audiences would, therefore, have gone to see what happened to this man who, in seeking absolute power over men and nature, turned from God, ‘made his soul of no estimation’ and sold it (which was not his to sell) to the devil.
They would have been overawed by Faustus’s unimaginable act of transgression. They would then have watched fascinated as first of all he came to realise that his power was illusory (he had put himself into the devil’s power) and then that he would certainly have to pay the absolute price of eternal damnation for his hubris and ambition.
Our production sets the scene in Hell itself. The torment for Dr.Faustus is to have to replay this version of his life and death for eternity without respite.
Devils assist his performance by impersonating characters from his life; fellow scholars, comic servants, Lucifer, Mephostophiles and, in one great grotesque pageant, The Seven Deadly Sins, all play their parts in his history.
Matthew Fell is commuting from Oxford to play Dr.Faustus, Barry Dougall is playing opposite him as Mephostophiles. All the 32 other parts are shared between a chorus of eight actors.
Making their debuts are Becki Allan, Claire McFeeley and, on loan from the Masque Youth Theatre, William Morgan (Gulliver).
Alongside them are old hands David Chappell, Brian Harrap, Barry Hillman, Kevin Pinks and Owen Warr.
In support are Claire Brittain managing costumes and make-up, Mark Mortimer helping to design and build a set and, we hope, Gene Lenehan will be available to design lighting supported by Richard Walker and The works.
Finally, a report from Exeter from the 1590s –
“Certain players at Exeter, acting upon the stage the tragical story of Dr.Faustus the conjurer; as a certain number of devils kept every one in his circle there, and as Faustus was busy making his magical invocations, on a sudden they were all dashed… for they were all persuaded there was one devil too many amongst them…”
Come to our production and be prepared for some surprises too.
9 - 13 December 2008 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton
Page last updated: 21/02/2013 Masque Theatre © 2013
Michael Street, Masque Theatre member
I have never written a review like this before and I have never read the play but in a spirit of innocent endeavour, let me begin. And let me say first that there was a lot to enjoy about this production. Certainly not an easy play to carry off, and Bob and his cast and crew are to be congratulated. The music and lighting were effective, the consistent red and black look was just right, and Tamsyn’s makeup was excellent.
One entered the Sep to find the stage set up in front of the nave, the first time I can remember this orientation. I noticed that there were no seats on risers, so did wonder how much people at the back would see. The set was simple but effective, though it was a shame that the candelabra could not be lit. The painted backdrop was intriguing and proved to be effective in the projection of large shadows onto it.
The production began with a chorus of devils, valiantly speaking together what was a very difficult speech linguistically. I must own to a preference for choruses where one line is taken each, rather than all lines together, but they did well.
Matthew Fell as Faustus commanded the stage from the start, with his diction crystal clear as usual. Establishing his motivation for rejecting ‘proper’ learning for the black arts was difficult (though this may be Christopher Marlowe’s fault!). But the invocation scene conveyed a genuine sense of foreboding, leading to the appearance of Barry Dougall as Mephistopheles. Barry portrayed quite a humanistic figure, but the sense of weary torment and the menace conveyed by his stillness and his eyes (think Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast) were terrific. I liked Kevin Pinks and Brian Harrap as the good and bad angels respectively and only David Chappell could probably have carried off Lucifer so commandingly (his height and voice used to great effect).
Come the second half and the chorus had perhaps warmed up as this unison speech was very well handled. There was a pacier feel to the action, though perhaps at the cost of a succession of relatively short scenes, not all of which seemed ‘essential’, though one can say the same about Shakespeare! I particularly liked the comedy brought out in the Pope scene, as Faustus and Mephistopheles terrify the gluttonous Pope and cardinals. At this stage Faustus’s situation is a bit of a lark, as he uses his power, it appeared, for mischief rather than real evil (perhaps we are meant to think he was already bored by all the riches, women etc that he could wish for, despite the temptation of Becki Allan’s slinky ‘devil wife’). The seven deadly sins scene was well done, with all the sins conveying their character excellently. At the end, we really shared Faustus’s terror as the inevitable approached, and it was clear that the invoked Helen of Troy would only provide a temporary sticking plaster. Use of a male actor (William Morgan) for Helen was interesting, but (whether connected or not) the power of the scene came from Faustus kissing a mask instead of a real face, conveying his sense of emptiness and alienation. Matthew’s scenes as the end approached were a real tour de force.
Space prevents me from mentioning all the cast by name, but the actors who played many different parts did so very well.