On Friday 25th January the English Literature students of the Sixth Form set out to see the production of one of our A Level set texts, Doctor Faustus, at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London. It was a long journey but upon arrival at the theatre the excitement was tangible. The production, held in a small, candlelit theatre, had an unexpected twist as the characters of Faustus and Mephistophilis were changed from male to female. We watched Jocelyn Jee Esien as Dr Faustus and Pauline McLynn as Mephistophilis work their magic on the stage and many who saw it said it helped the character of Faustus to be seen in an alternative light and in a way that reflects both men and women. Below are the thoughts of the amazing leader of the trip, Miss Lansdown, and those of some of the students who went:
‘The emphasis on Marlowe’s humour within the production was particularly striking, especially in Pauline McLynn’s presentation of Mephistophilis. It was interesting to see the successful decision to gender-swap the central role, an increasingly common trend within modern productions. Jocelyn Jee Esien was outstanding. Overall, it was an impressive production in an intimate, atmospheric setting.’ (Miss Lansdown, 2nd in English)
‘I have really enjoyed studying the play in my English Literature lessons, so it was really exciting to see it come to life on the stage. Ironically, it was performed on Shakespeare’s stage and not Marlowe’s, but this did not affect the performance. It was very interesting seeing this interpretation of the play as most of the characters who would usually be male, were female. It was amazing to go to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as well; because of the way the stage was set, most of the audience were above the stage looking down. Where we were, we didn’t have seats, so we stood at the top and looked down, which was quite scary! Overall, it was an amazing opportunity to go and see this performance and I would like to thank all the teachers who made this trip possible’ (Georgia, Year 12)
‘The trip provided me with an invaluable opportunity to see Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus on stage. Seeing the play in action allowed me to explore more ideas regarding the play, especially because it was performed in such a different way to how it is depicted on the page; with perhaps the most notable difference being that the majority of the cast were female. The relationship between the female Faustus and Mephistophilis appeared to be far more intimate, with the dynamic between the characters being one of unmatched closeness. This was particularly evident in the scene where Faustus and Helen of Troy interact, with Faustus saying ‘give me my soul’, to which Mephistophilis appeared a tad more than simply dismayed! Seeing Faustus in such a contrasting way to how you first imagine it when reading the play was really refreshing, and I believe it will help me greatly when revising for my exam.’ (Olivia, Year 12)
A big thank you to all those who organised this trip and to those who contributed to this article! The students appear to have thoroughly enjoyed the play. I hope they will run this trip again next year!
Gabriella (Year 12)