Angels and Demons in St Andrews

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As one of the most renowned works in German Theatre, Goethe’s Faust was always going to be a challenging production for both the actors and the production team.

The play engages with universal issues, such as faith, science and corruption of innocence making its timeless presentation, which is demonstrated through a variety of set and costume very appropriate.

The opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the play. Joe Makangu made a convincing god demonstrating the benevolence and wisdom of his character but also his power. His presence throughout act one as the beggar reinforces the idea that he is watching over Mephistopheles as she poisons the mind of Faust, but in act two he is no longer present as the pair jointly corrupt the innocent Margaret.

His voice, however, closes and opens the play. When Mephistopheles and Faust desert Margaret believing she is lost, we hear the voice of God saying she is saved. Makangu’s performance pointed to the high standard of performance we were to expect from this show.

Special mention should go to Alistair John Cobbold who stepped in at late notice to play Faust. Considering this pressure, he pulled off an admirable performance. Sebastian Carrington-Howell brought comedy into the play as the student, for though the scene was short it was certainly one of the most memorable.

In the second act Caroline McCaffrey brought the show to its climax in plot as well as acting distinction, progressing from the innocent to the raving mad Margaret. However, throughout the play it was Jocelyn Cox as Mephistopheles who truly brought the show to life; her potency dominating her followers, persuadeding God and corrupting Faustus and Margaret. Jocelyn played her part with conviction moving between serious and humorous presentations with ease.

However, as Goethe teaches us, there cannot be light without some dark and this production was not faultless. Darkness was actually a major issue because of times when there was so much smoke that the stage was barely visible.

The use of lighting was also strange, with the colours at times changing for no apparent reason while the street lamp seemed incongruous. The set was bland and virtually non-existent. In a way this was necessary for such a non-naturalistic performance but certain scenes required more genuine surroundings. I also felt that the lack of different staging levels and the use of the space was not wholly maximised. Faust ought to be a show that can fill the Byre main stage.

This production would have been suited to a more intimate venue in which the minimalistic set would have been appropriate and the powerful acting maximised.

However, these deficiencies do not outweigh the brilliance of the show and overall light overpowered dark both in the play and its performance.

Emily Hill

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