Six Lip Theatre’s production of Faustus is hit and miss at best. The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus is a play by Christopher Marlowe in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge. Faustus presents one of the most famous moral dilemmas of time - a literal pact with the devil. Six Lips do not deal with the magnitude of this choice with Faust, played inadequately by Peter Birkinshaw, barely fluttering an eyelid as he sells his soul to Lucifer’s chief demon, Mephistopheles - failing to build or focus on any moral predicament. This would not be such an issue for the production if the chorus did not continuously repeat that the play was a ‘cautionary tale of morals and ethics and how humans can fall’.
The play, directed by Roxanna Klimaszewska and written by Rebecca Thomson, has been given a steampunk design and finish to enable the ensemble to give a reflection on the predominant themes in a ‘relevant, exciting, new perspective.’ The only problem is, Steampunk by its nature is not modern or relevant and other than its exterior, nothing in the play reflected this retro style. In my opinion, the issue with the play is at its core - the objectives of the production. Six Lips Theatre claim they are lead by ‘globalisation of industry and consumerism’ in their interpretation of Faustus, yet neither of these exist in Marlowe’s play.
Six Lips Theatre employ music and choral activity as the backbone of their story-telling, however they do not play to their strengths as regretfully none of their cast can hold a tune and their chorus is neither completely uniform nor do they have any individuality as characters. My main issue with their choice to use music and song is that they sacrifice the beautiful language that makes Marlowe’s Dr Faustus so wonderful and memorable.
The acting also is nothing to write home about. Mephistopheles is hammy throughout and loses his status above Faustus with too many dramatic pauses and an uncontrolled veneer. At one point, one of his songs sounds like Disney’s Aladdin ‘A Whole New World’. Faustus himself is dull and does not show any range in his ability - something a character dealing with his own moral corruption needs. The only redeeming feature of this play is the choreography, which at times is graceful and unique in the presentation of a classic.
I would not expect this level of theatre from a company that call themselves professional. They succeeded in creating a production, Brechtian in style, but there reasons for doing so seem lost.