Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 9:20PM
Matthew Kopelke in Theatre

I will admit, it certainly felt strange attending a Queensland Theatre Company production at the Brisbane Powerhouse, as opposed to the more regular venues of either the Bille Brown Studio or QPAC. But then I thought that if this show was really going to be something different, something dark and edgy (like the trailers on ABC Radio had been advertising it as all week), then maybe a more “urban” venue like the Powerhouse might be appropriate? Sadly, while I had a lot of good will for this production (John Bell tends to associate himself only with the best in quality theatre), I came away from QTC’s production of Faustus feeling somewhat let down by what I witnessed. While there were a lot of elements to like about the show, nothing ever quite jelled enough for me to truly feel as though the show had managed to reach the level it otherwise could have.

I think the key problem I had with Faustus was in the over reliance on dialogue to tell the tale. Now, I will happily admit that I am not hugely familiar with the source material, but I guess it’s most likely quite wordy. If this is the case, then such a focus on telling, rather than showing, is still present in a heavy way with QTC’s adaptation of the material. If this wasn’t the case with the original, then sadly Michael Gow has brought in a very unrequired element to the proceedings. Either way, Faustus suffers heavily from this very wordy script. A good example of this is the opening scene, as Doctor Faustus outlines his reasons for wanting to make a pact with the Devil. Honestly, what could have been said in a minute or to laboured on for closer to 10 minutes, and I honestly lost interest in what he was saying. It’s this lack of getting to the point that bored me more than anything else in the show.

The cast assembled are all generally very good at what they’re doing, so at least the show had that going for it. John Bell was quite good as Mephistophilis, although at times his performance did feel a little bit “phoned in”, with only occasional flashes of brilliance interspersed throughout. Ben Winspear was really quite brilliant as Faustus himself, although like I said above he was lumbered with far too much dialogue than was really necessary. His scenes with Kathryn Marquet’s Gretchen were some of the best scenes in the entire show, as we watch his reactions to the young girl’s fall from grace and suffering. The female cast members assembled all did some incredible work, employing some highly suggestive sexual overtones to really drive the Lucifer angle of the show rather well. Which brings me to Jason Klarwein as the Devil. A shame he wasn’t used more, because he certainly seemed to have some excellent stage presence.

The production design employed on the show was very interesting, with a simple set of curtains being used to separate various spaces for different scenes. One very effective sequence involved some innovative use of Cinematic Theatre which I quite liked, although sadly like the rest of the show it went on for about twice as long as it needed to. The mask work employed on the show was also very cool, and brought a much needed level of creepiness to the proceedings.

Overall, I have to admit that Faustus was a disappointment for me. While there were several elements that I really liked, the overall impression I got from it was something that needed a tighter script to really be more effective. Which is a shame, because the combination of Michael Gow and John Bell should have been a recipe for success. Instead of pondering the deeper levels of meaning in a story about the consequences of selling your soul to the Devil, I was pondering the meaning of selling my time to a show that was so pondering in pace.

Article originally appeared on The Sunday Talk (http://thesundaytalk.squarespace.com/).
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