Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Passion in Practice at The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse


Marlowe's mighty line rang new-minted around the candlelit Playhouse, in an eloquent, pocket-sized production by Passion in Practice.
A candle burns on Faustus' simple table, a bowl, a bottle at the front of the stage. And books scattered everywhere. The action begins with Marlowe himself, perhaps, in the person of the learned doctor, composing the “thousand ships” piece [cf Shakespeare in Love] before scrumpling the parchment and throwing it to the floor. Later, with a couple of quills, it makes an improvised dragon, a typically inventive touch. Helen's face is confined to a flimsy postcard, just like the prospects of Paris, Naples and the rest, seen from the soaring creature's back.
Aslam Husain makes a human, often humorous, “man that in his studio sits”, without losing any of the intensity. At the end, he vows to burn his books, and walks upstage to hell with a quiet, determined acceptance of his fate. The pact with the devil is brilliantly done.
Emma Pallant – a super Beatrice on tour a couple of years ago – is an equally intense Mephistophilis - “Why this is hell ...” chillingly done. A very youthful Lucifer from Alex Boxall, and Jennifer Jackson completing the cast. They are also, inter alia, Valdes and Cornelius, and, tellingly, the students in the final scene.
Improvised music helps the ambience, and the Original Pronunciation [Ben and David Crystal] brings extra energy to the relentless rhythm of the lines.

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