In sixteenth-century Germany it was not regarded as irreverant to perform comic puppet shows featuring characters and scenes from the legend of Faust. The post-A-level students from Tiffin School, under the guise of Triple Fish Theatre, have not gone that far, but they certainly generate more humour than is found in traditional performances of this otherwise weighty work.
Triple Fish Theatre's production is perceptive, thoughtful and energetic. Far from selling its soul to the devil the company has created a divine drama.
Nick Goodman is the company’s sound and lighting technician, a position he holds at the school where he also does some teaching. He is a key figure in this production. An old Tiffinian, he was looking for a new challenge in life. Like Faust and the Gospel of John, he decided to produce a translation of Faust, despite initially speaking no German. His work is a linguistic triumph of rich, rhyming text that deploys an extensive and vivid vocabulary which the cast treats with relish.
Any production of Faust demands two strong leads and director Lucy Hughes has been blessed with exactly that. Akshay Khanna as Faust and Steffan Evans as Mephistopheles are mighty in their roles. In old-fashioned academic dress Akshay looks every part the wizened scholar. He gives full vent to Faust’s state of despair and desire for a better life. In his moments of tenderness towards Gretchen he captures the contentment Faust seeks but mostly he is in a permanently impassioned state as Faust laments his lot in life, derides the world and argues with the devil incarnate.
Steffan Evans as Mephistopheles enters wearing a bebuttoned robe of cardinal red and sweeping silk-cuffed sleeves that would make even Joseph envious. It makes for spectacular entrances and exits and gives him an air of ironic ecclesiastical authority. He wears it in a manner compatible with his commanding performance. Moving and sounding like an experienced classical actor, he uses every device at his disposal. Poses and pauses, a seductive yet authoritarian voice, turns of the head and penetrating eyes combine so convincingly as to make it inevitable that Faust would succumb to the tricks of the devil. In the clutches of both Faust and Mephistopheles is Gretchen. Talor Hanson, looking like a rustic, yet beautiful alpine lass, gives a balanced portrayal of both the religious piety and sexual passion of this young girl.
The supporting cast forms a chorus of white faces with various make-up motifs and simple black-and-white robes worthy of Chanel, accessorised with rubber gloves in a range of colours. It is within this group that the cast displays its understanding of a wide range of theatrical devices that hark back to the earlier German liberties taken with Faust. Mime, music, physical theatre and staging are deftly employed to create the dog, the doors, the silhouette, the cupboard the trees, the babbling brook and a host of scenarios.
Triple Fish Theatre’s production is perceptive, thoughtful and energetic. Far from selling its soul to the devil the company has created a divine drama.