Sunday, August 14, 2011

John Dee Fan Club Report

"Was awesome. Especially when they dragged him screaming down to hell." So ran Lee Durkee's review of DOCTOR FAUSTUS at the Globe Theatre, a performance of which he attended yesterday. That was the condensed version, as presented in a facebook comment. Later, Lee followed up with a nice, long email, portions of which will be presented below. Dr. Faustus is thought by some scholars (one scholar?) to be Christopher Marlowe's negative portrait of Dr. John Dee, while Prospero represents Shakespeare putting a nicer gloss on him. Also Neoplatonism is involved, says Lee, but let's keep this rolling along. We don't have all day! All right! And now let's turn it over to Lee Durkee, reporting from England: "a blockbuster version of Faustus all stops pulled Hollywood style. It was great, though it wasn’t Elizabethan in any way; there were more actors on stage in the opening scene than existed in an entire old school troupe, but the play, essentially a series of slapstick vignettes inserted kinda jarringly into the stream of a dark narrative that’s not nearly as interesting... worked because it was prop-filled and bawdy [WARNING: one example of bawdiness follows below - ed.]... I was leaning against the runway tongue of the stage and half the time had to crane my head directly up to see the actors, and what I’ll always remember is that O in the sky above them. Shakespeare’s O, his Globe, which even in a theme park void of ghosts (the remains of the real Globe were discovered a quarter mile away while the new one was being constructed) was haunting, that view upward with clouds passing overhead an Elizabethan archetype... Props galore included giant dinosaur-boned birds, representing dragons, on which Mephistopheles and Faustus scoured the globe looking for trouble. Giant masks of Helen, of demons, behind which costume changes were made. Books opened into flames. A wench ran on stage with a Roman candle spurting fire from her crotch. [I warned you! - ed.] The three trap doors were in constant use, props and people appearing and vanishing, especially during the highlight of the play, the parade of the seven deadly sins. John Dee would have been proud of them... My legs held me up okay in the pit, though we all sat down during intermission... Fun to watch the people in the boxes the same way the nobility used to get ogled by the runts. There were a couple of moments when things went wrong and the actors had to improvise and bite back giggles, and in many ways these are always my favorite moments, the spell gets bubbleburst and replaced by a moment of intimacy between the actors and crowd filled with grins and shrugs. A floating castle helium balloon that was supposed to rise up out of the Globe and reproduce one of Faust’s spells instead floundered in a downdraft, was captured by an audience member, who then let it go a moment later; it drifted back onto the stage just as some regent was complimenting Faustus on his magical castle-in-the-sky illusion. The balloon seemed playful almost and finally Meph grabbed it and stalked off stage with it while Faustus laughed and the crowd laughed... Another great moment was when some king of evilness hit a tennis ball into the crowd, and the crowd member tossed it back, and the king broke out in laughter, as did the audience... afterwards I decided to follow the crowd across the walking bridge over the Thames, just like in the old days, and of couse I got lost and then ended up an hour later, still looking for the tube, finding The Shakespeare’s Head instead and popping in for a pint."