The Royal Shakespeare Company's Theatregoround production of Doctor Faustus at Newport Little Theatre and Arts Centre. Director, Gareth Morgan.
Faustus was a clever man who wanted to be a god. His pact with the devil was a bid for 'power, honour and omnipotence'.
As a morality tale, the story grows more pertinent daily; as an exhibition of language, it is one of the glories of the stage. Equally important in performance is the opportunity it gives for spectacle and mystery.
The imaginative way in which these elements were indeed combined with splendid performances by David Waller in the title role, and Alan Howard as Mephistophilis, gave this production a mesmeric quality.
On an eight-sided stage with blocks for scenery, it presented 12 actors in 49 roles, and managed to create a world of extravagant images. Enormous headpieces which caricatured the seven deadly sins were among the devices.
The production also incorporated a great deal of humorous business, especially in the Vatican scene. This contained the only thing I found difficult to accept. Pie-throwing is theoretically permissible among the lunatic tricks Faustus and Mephistophilis play on the court, but in my mind it is so firmly associated with pantomime and silent film comedy that it seemed alien to the play.
Part of Mr. Waller's success was in the vulnerability he gave to Faustus, making him much more of a human being than I had remembered from other productions. He goes through various stages of nervousness and wonder at his own audacity, childish glee at the effects of his new power, and a fear that was effectively communicated when the time came to pay the price.
The actor has a very fine voice, and he measured out the poetry in compelling rhythms.
Alan Howard's pale, slender Mephistophilis was most notable for its terrible resignation. His inward-looking eyes and his boredom as Faustus brought off yet another circus trick conveyed a world of despair. His complete blankness as Faustus made a final appeal was among the most chilling things I have seen.
Other actors donned their many disguises efficiently, lights and music added countless dimensions.
Many people were unable to get seats for this one night stand. I am sure that if a further performance were arranged it would sell out immediately on the recommendation of Tuesday's audience.
The South Wales Argus, 16.9.70.