For the first production in the Made in Liverpool series, this luminous performance of Philip Wilson’s play raises more than one devil, with the whisperings in Faustus’ intellect at the mysterious opening of Marlowe’s searing verse.
Nicholas Tennant rises to the heights of John Faustus’ flight into necromancy and conjuring in today’s clothing, outlining his hubris. Jamie Bamber as Mephistopheles lopes around the scene in trainers, surprisingly young, expressing a smiling nature and granting Faustus’ fancies, in a capturing performance.
Designer Mike Britton’s stage cleverly creates a floor to ceiling library of thousands of books. Into this claustrophobic den appear striking golden figures high on tables. Six actors set out a full panoply of characters from the then known world. Alan Barnes, Michael Brown, Samuel Collings, Simon Harrison, Daniel Osgerby and Daniel Settatree play Helen of Troy, Alexander the Great, the Emperor Charles V and the Seven Deadly Sins, among others. Each actor describes six characters.
In and out of the action comes a bright, white Good Angel by Samuel Collings accompanying Daniel Settatree’s Evil Angel, with lambent archangel wings.
The glorious demands of Faustus in the 16th century pale against present day desires. Blasphemy is Faustus’ undoing. The end of the story is mesmeric, thanks to lighting designer Oliver Fenwick and sound designer Jason Barnes. As Faustus burns his books, the whole stage catches fire with explosions and crackling of wood and clouds of yellow smoke which leaves the library gutted but standing amid the destruction, in two burned embers, is the cross.