Christopher Marlowe's career lasted just six years. In 1593, aged only 29, his work and his life were cut short when he was stabbed in the eye at a Deptford tavern. Kate Bramley's professional aspirations should, god willing, progress without any such complications.
Bramley was called in at short notice to direct this production of Marlowe's Elizabethan morality play, adapted by Hull Truck's John Godber, when Godber suffered a knee injury that consigned him to bed. And the girl done good, rising to the challenge with a Dr Faustus that delivers a compelling perspective on the question of good versus evil.
Dr Faustus (Daniel O'Brien) is torn between the paths of righteousness and unrighteousness, and Mephistophilis (Stuart Wade) is on hand to help him decide. In a blood contract with the devil, he allows Faustus 24 years of delightfully hedonistic sin. And later, when Faustus starts to doubt his unholy union, Mephistophilis entices him with Helen of Troy (Tonicha Jeronimo) - prompting Faustus' now immortal words, "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?" And thus the battle for the soul of Faustus revs up to its climax. Will he reject the pitfalls of sin and obtain redemption? Or will he be damned to an eternity in hell?
Both Daniel O'Brien, as Dr Faustus, and Stuart Wade, as Mephistophilis, deliver performances of the highest calibre. They guide the play from opening curtain to closing bow with an assertive confidence that belies such a complex text. The three other players - Tonicha Jeronimo, Zach Lee and Paul McCrink - add excellent support, gliding effortlessly through several costume changes and moving from comedy to drama with energetic aplomb.
Pip Leckenby's oppressive library-styled set and Graham Kirk's imaginative use of lighting also assist greatly in generating a heightened mood of mystery and suspense.
Dr Faustus is no walk in the park. This is a challenging play to watch, even for an experienced theatre audience. But Bramley's production proves emminently digestible, especially with a duration time that should keep all happy.
I recommend you make a bargain with the devil and put this Hull Truck production on your list of top shows to catch.