Posted by: Wayne Robinson | November 12, 2011

Faust – An belated review

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. Possibly he is also tired of paying through the kidney for everything, so The Globe always comes as a delight for this man when looking for a reasonably cheap night’s entertainment.

Having stood in the yard for the matinee performance of Much Ado About Nothing, we opted for seats for the evening’s performance of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. I won’t go into the story too deeply, there’s a perfectly fine synopsis on Wikipedia if you don’t know the story or are here to plagiarise an essay for homework.

The Globe performance used the 1604 version of the play, firmly placing it in the early Stuart period and retaining the comedic side-stories that were pruned from later, more serious editions. Having seen the afternoon show, the transformation of the theatre from the earlier setting was nothing short of stunning. The stage was a different shape, the backdrops had been changed, the orange orchard and water features were gone.

The view from our seats. Photo by me.

We were totally unprepared for how popular the Globe is these days. Back in 2003 and 2006, we simply rocked up on the day and handed over the readies. This time booking tickets 8 weeks before the show meant we had two of the last seats left in the theatre, with the obligatory column in the way – leading to a very interactive night as we both twisted and shifted to keep the action in view.

Paul Hilton as Faust.
Photo: The London Magazine

Casting was excellent, Paul Hilton playing an introspective and thoughtful Faust, betrayed by his own intellect into the proverbial pact with the Devil, eventually consumed by his lusts for knowledge and pleasure and finally recanting too late to be saved. Arthur Darvil, often somewhat insipid on Dr Who was a striking and sophisticated Mephistopheles, commanding the stage and obviously the reason most of the younger members of the audience were in the theatre. I was particularly taken with the angels (one good, one evil) who fight for Faust’s soul (Charlotte Broom and Beatriz Romilly, who can both move and fight well enough to keep me enthralled for at least one evening), and the Seven Deadly Sins were in fine form. The musicians were dressed in Regency clothing with bird-head wigs. The entire production was loaded with anachronisms that were meant to engage the audience with the familiar, such as the red and black leather bondage gear besported by the Sins, rather than jarring the audience with more accurate items that they couldn’t immediately recognise.

If I had one complaint, it would be that many of the actors obviously weren’t used to working in a round theatre with a bloody great hole in the roof and didn’t project. I’ve compared notes with a few people who’d been to other performances, so it wasn’t just me being deaf.

Arthur Darvil brooding as Mephistopheles
Photo: The Evening Standard

I’ve read some reviews of the show, and the one thing that stands out is the reviewers just don’t get it. They are looking for nobility and high art. Often criticising very irrelevant, petty detail that detracted nothing from the show, they miss the point that this was written as entertainment for the masses. I really enjoyed one negative review being particularly critical of the use of toilet humour at a place that should be as lofty as The Globe. The rude humour was in the original play and served to make the despair of Faust’s final fall even darker than it would otherwise have been. I’m glad that reviewer has never read any Shakespeare.

Here’s the trailer, just so you can see what you missed.



  1. Looks excellent – love the angel costumes. I am jelus. Less of the Rory-bashing, though, ta 🙂

    While I’m theatre-minded, perhaps we could pencil in a waistcoats outing for She Stoops to Conquer, next March 29.

  2. I thought the nod towards the Polish winged hussar in the good angel’s wings was inspired.

  3. There’s a 17th c original in the National Museum in Krakow:

  4. I love it when people who think Shakespeare is all posh and ladidah (technical theatrical terms) find out otherwise 🙂 (catching up on some blog reading rather than just maintaining!)

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