Marlow's morality tale a treat for poetry lovers

Last updated 12:51 14/11/2012

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The screen production from the Globe this weekend will be Doctor Faustus, directed by Matthew Dunster.

Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, wrote Doctor Faustus some time about the late 1580s. It was one of the most popular plays of its time and was regularly performed for half a century after the playwright's death.

As well as being considered the greatest tragedy in English before those of William Shakespeare, it includes some of the best poetry ever written.

Doctor Faustus was an intellectual and master of most of the important subjects of his time, but he became bored with the limitations of human study. To satisfy his insatiable desire for knowledge and power, he was strongly attracted to magic and found a way in to this world by making a pact with the devil.

In exchange for 24 years of service from Mephistopheles and a luxury lifestyle, Faustus agrees to release his soul to the devil on his death.

At the end of this morality tale, Faustus is dragged off to hell, repenting of his sin too late to be saved.

For an Elizabethan audience, who were preoccupied with religion and the afterlife, this would have been a frightening concept. For modern audiences, however, it is usual to have more comedic elements, making room for invention and fantasy.

Dunster has included huge flying dragons, larger-than-life goats on stilts, and devil-like puppets, as well as a couple of odd looking creatures that Lucifer trails around with him as he battles with the angels for one man's soul.

The cast includes Arthur Darvill as Mephistopheles (Rory in Doctor Who) and Paul Hilton as Doctor Faustus.

To see this production in the replica theatre, which is based on the two original late 16th-century, early 17th-century Globe theatres, is a unique experience.

The cameras focus on the actors close up and on the surrounding, casually dressed audience members, whose laughter and engagement feed the performances.

The plays are performed in a live take, with post-production used to iron out lighting and sound inconsistencies.

They are not beamed live to cinemas, mostly because of Britain's bad weather.

  • Doctor Faustus, directed by Matthew Dunster, Shakespeare Globe/Arts Alliance Media, 2011, 167 minutes including intermission, State Cinema, Sun 2.45pm, Mon 5.30pm, Wed 11am. Adults $25, seniors/children $20.

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