What Price Your Soul?
Kirsten Kearney dances with the Devil at Bruiser's Faustus
It’s a brave man, or a renegade, who will take on Goethe, Byron, Marlowe and the Devil in 65 minutes. Or at all for that matter.
But in his bright young twenties, despairing of the clunkiness of Goethe and the romance of Byron, Steven Rumbelow’s eye was caught by a footnote that suggested that Christopher Marlowe’s demon Mephistopheles was in fact, Faustus’ other self. His doppelgänger, his light shadow which threw the voracious academic into sharp relief and into a pit of his own making.
Armed with this supposition, Rumbelow set out to create a modern Faustus, one in which the good-evil opposition is inverted, in which the demon becomes a begging angel of light and in which, it is Faustus himself who emerges as to blame. As Rumbelow puts it 'Faustus was the driven ambitious and greedy academic... the true demon.'
Belfast, set deep in fog and rain (outside) and deep in shadow (inside), creates the scene for a prone figure, sprawled across the stage, surrounded by scattered books, as a slim, suited man in the poise of a mannered mannequin reads quietly. The end of Faustus, you fear. ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ plays surreally in the background.
The end is the beginning, but the fall of Faustus is still about to happen, and is as definite as the fall of Lucifer himself. With no forked tail in sight, Tony Flynn as Mephistopheles cuts an urbane, tragi-camp figure whose fate seems more pitiful and worthy of pity than Faustus himself. Jim Roche grows more and more into character as John Faustus becomes more lost.
From bumptious and blustering to tortured and terrified, Roche captures each stage on the Faustian journey and endows it with humour, of the light and dark varieties, with pathos, and with the fractured arrogance of the academic. In comparison, Mephistopheles is a sleek spirit, an un-tempter, who chastens Faustus to repent and gain back the joys of heaven which he himself has lost.
Bruiser Theatre Company are famed for combining voice and physical theatre, using, as Director Lisa May puts it, the 'minimum set for maximum impact'. As the table becomes a pulpit, transforms into a confessional box and then becomes the mouth of the grave itself, video projections double the actors’ actions in the foreground, and this principle becomes flesh and blood.
People laughed. And then ceased to laugh. Emerged exhausted into the daylight of the stairwell and descended to the street with the feeling of having come full circle, as the body of Faustus lay sprawled once again on the stage.
The play is a helter-skelter ride of close-packed emotion, tempered with sprightly touches of humour, but is a play whose pace catapults the audience to the end too soon. Slightly dejected, following the well earned standing ovation, I leave, wondering if, like Faustus, I just wasn’t ready for it all to end.
Faustus will be at Clotworthy Arts Centre on Thursday October 12 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £8/ £6 concession and are available on 028 9448 1338.