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Theatre Review (Brisbane): Faustus

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Last night I saw the Queensland Theatre Company and Bell Shakespeare’s co-production of Faustus adapted by Michael Gow. Going into it all I knew of Faustus was that he was a guy who sold his soul to the devil. Not a very bright idea.

While I hadn’t heard that much about Faustus himself I had heard the tale countless times, as I’m sure have many others. It’s a popular trope that can be seen in highbrow literature and The Simpsons alike. Last night, however, I experienced the tale of Faustus as I never had before.

The production was fascinating. Performances aside (and yes they were brilliant) it was a unique and unusual presentation implementing classical and popular music, photography and video, and very spartan props and set decoration.

It will never cease to astound me what theatre is capable of achieving with so little, and the unique ways to use it. A wooden structure creating a stage within a stage with multiple curtains sets up the idea of Faustus being a series of shows within a show. And the movements on the periphery of the stage were at times just as fascinating as what was going on within its boundaries. The music was at times startling, at times poignant and, in the case of “Que Sera, Sera,” playing as we left the theatre, ironic. The use of rapidly-cut-together video was engrossing and I imagine would offer a myriad of new experiences and interpretations to the repeat viewer.

Aspects of the production seemed, to me, distinctly Aussie though it is clearly not set in any specific time or place, suiting the universal and unending popularity of this theme. It could be laugh-out-loud funny and then suddenly horrific, I found myself on a few occasions leaning forward in my seat or holding my breath.

My greatest regret is that I saw this play so late and will be unable to see it again. If you are able I urge you to see this play before it closes. It is a truly stimulating adaptation, one which I will be continuing to contemplate for some time. It runs through June 25 at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

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