Thursday, 18 February 2016

Matchless perfection…

Sandy Grierson (Mephistophilis) – photo by Helen Maybanks/RSC

At the end of my first review of Doctor Faustus, I wrote that…

I can therefore, now… identify with (Marlowe’s and Ryan’s) Faustus. Sometimes, the temptation – maybe not for instant gratification; but certainly for pleasure (for the power) to relieve, to distract from, a life of pain, a life of uncertainty… – is just too great.

In fact, I was in so much agony, today, that I would quite easily have given “both body and soul to Lucifer, Prince of the East, and his minister Mephistophilis” – the latter having already (seemingly) plunged his knife deep within my neck… – in return for “four-and-twenty-years” of letting me live without hurt of any kind (although I would have asked for a further twenty years remission for earned good behaviour – and steadfast endurance – of course…).

It strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,
Or Lucifer will bear the quick to hell.
O soul, be changed into small waterdrops,
And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found!
O, mercy, heaven, look not so fierce on me!
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not, Come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books. O, Mephistophilis!

O, that ending….


As always, though, the distraction of great drama worked its (sadly, temporary) wonders – it was more than worth the effort… – and I wasn’t even disappointed in the slightest that I was again to witness the captivating Oliver Ryan as Faustus (although I still long – and would also consider an exchange of souls – for Sandy Grierson to play the rôle whilst I am in the audience. Just once would do, please – out of, now, a possible seven viewings (although most shows – and it runs until August – are, if not already so, on the verge of being sold out…)).

Ryan inhabits every single syllable. It is almost impossible to take your eyes off him… – but not to do so would mean that you would miss many miracles. (Obversely: keep them fixed there, on that electric being; and witness constant supremacy and insistent genius – body and face permanently communicative.)

Yes, it is that good. It is a thing, in truth, of profound beauty. And last night’s was the best, the most fluent, of the three shows I have seen: so wonderful, I think it fair to say that the run has now truly gotten into its stride; having jumped over the nervous previews; hopped past press-night worries; and is now cantering through the relaxed fields far from sight of the finishing line. (My two companions were also hooked; and were both astonished at how quickly the two hours had flown by. (Like a bowler-hatted bat out of hell…?))

It is so very “good”, indeed, that the shocks and surprises that so pulled me in, initially, have matured into steadfast delights (attractions both dark and light); and I am now able to appreciate not only the whole ‘story’, but absorb those significant little details – Sandy Grierson’s feline haunting of the stage (and of Faustus (and, perhaps, the audience, too)); his communicative, sly glances; the musical leitmotivs; the genius of the “cut up” text; the manipulation of bodies and objects; the push and pull of reflected power… – that render (over and above the subtle, adroit acting – and from all on stage…) repeated viewings increasingly enjoyable (if that is the right word for something so tenebrous…).


If you can, get a ticket; get a dozen…! Please don’t kill for one, though (as tempting as that may be…) – maybe just make a teensy-weensy compact with that guy with the blackened feet…? Trust me: you’re worth it.

Her lips suck forth my soul. See where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.

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