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Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
Directed by Mike Taylor
The Theatre at the Old Fire Station, Oxford
17-21 December 2013. For the location of the theatre click here

Setting and interpretation

Doctor Faustus is often performed as a serious, moral piece of work. However there’s no doubt that Marlowe had in mind spectacle and entertainment when he wrote the piece. Faustus’ downfall is a serious story, with serious points to be made. But Marlowe describes his ‘tragicall end’ in a series of short scenes and the inclusion of clowns, devils with fireworks, greedy clerics, foolish errand boys and ignorant scholars signals his clear intention to entertain his audience.

Although the language will be unchanged, the setting will be a modern one. In no other modern arena is the human life exposed in all its greed, frailty and foolishness as in reality TV: the confessional, candid interview, the mawkish eviction show, the off-the-record footage. Our production will borrow from these ideas to tell its story.

Doctor Faustus at the theatre at the Old Fire Station will be a colourful and gleefully demonic production that will entertain and ultimately horrify.

You can download a draft copy of the script for this production here.

Plot summary

Doctor Faustus – or The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus as it’s sometimes known – is a play by Christopher Marlowe, written at sometime around 1590. There are two versions of the play: we will be using the ‘A’ text, which is considered to be more original than the ‘B’ version. It’s certainly shorter and crisper.

Faustus knows it all: a scholar who is weary of learning, bored of facts. Playing around with magic, he finds that he has the power to summon Mephistopheles – the devil’s assistant. Faustus uses this relationship to negotiate a bargain: all-consuming power in exchange for the small matter of his eternal soul. Faustus seals the deal in his own blood. Having achieved his wish, Faustus then sets about wasting the opportunity in frivolous activities. Despite many warnings and omens and visitations, Faustus refuses to believe that he is able to recant and save his soul, and is eventually dragged to his doom.
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