Pros: Highly inclusive and passionately executed, featuring some contemporary twists.
Cons: A slight struggle to follow the Elizabethan language at times.
Chickenshed is a relatively small-scale, non-profit theatre tucked away in Southgate, North London. To say it is deserving of much more credit than it currently receives would be an understatement. It is one thing to envision the day when theatre is inclusive, champions equality, and enriches lives, but it is an entirely different thing altogether to have already achieved it, and so profoundly. From the instance that I stepped foot into the theatre I was taken aback by the sense of diversity in terms of the staff and volunteers who run it, the performers, and the array of audience members who sit eagerly awaiting; it was refreshing to say the least.
We are greeted in the foyer by the chorus of Doctor Faustus who, through song, give us a brief introduction to the play. They then lead us up to the studio theatre where Faustus, played by Ashley Driver, sits at an old desk amongst his philosophical theories and thoughts, seemingly unaware of our presence. We take seat on both sides of the very intimate performance space, which is cold, scarcely lit in dark red tones and is filled with some rather eerie music. This atmosphere never left us.
Driver can certainly hold an audience, and depicts the troubled scholar lucidly throughout. He delivers his rather complex dialogue articulately, even in fleeting moments of desperation. The real mastery of this production though lies within the cast as a collective. Certain topics are met with very clever and well thought out means, which gives a new edge to this timely tragedy. On the topic of astronomy, the ensemble enters the dark space with small neon lights in glass bulbs, subtly moving around on different levels which is choreographed to create a rather spectacular visual.
The ensemble supports the main action brilliantly, the most surprising of which has to be when Lucifer, played by the brilliant Michael Bossisse, performs a rather expressive and unfailing rap. This is just one example of how this production has been recreated to appeal to, and engage a very current audience. Other notable moments include the use of a giant puppet with voice over from Sir Derek Jacobi.
These home-grown performers from Chickenshed bring much talent to the table in this play, but what is really notable is the passion with which they do so. Though Doctor Faustus is a dark tale in many senses, my experience of the production was heart-warming. Undoubtedly because of the undeniable sense of inclusivity and pure joy for performing that these actors share.
Writer: Christopher Marlowe
Director: Joseph Morton
Booking Until: 21 October 2017
Box Office: 020 8292 9222
Booking Link: https://www.chickenshed.org.uk/Event/doctor-faustus