Faust

CHRISTOPHER SMITH UEA, Drama Studio

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

For his farewell production at the UEA, professor Ralph Yarrow goes for a big one. Faust, the embodiment of desire to know more and more, has been one of the figures dominating dramatic imaginations from the Renaissance to the present day.

In this new version, the theatrical and literary presence is everywhere. A few opening words from the hero are enough to recall our Christopher Marlowe and Germany's great Johann Goethe. Tennyson's Ulysses makes his manly voice heard, while Robert Burns, William Blake and Andrew Marvel contribute more tenderly.

Music too is picked from far and wide, most impressively with Kurt Weill's sleazy tune for the blood curdling Mac the Knife in Brecht's Threepenny Opera.

A great variety of theatrical styles are pressed into service too by a large, versatile student cast. There are always new characters to encounter, fresh costumes to interpret as different situations and experiences burst briefly into life. Puppets, remind us of the way the Faust theme was presented in former centuries and make us see the action, for a while, with new eyes.

The result could be confusion, an academic exercise in cultural lucky dip. But things hold together. Though amazingly diverse, the elements gel, and the actors have skill enough to reveal coherence as they keep on showing Faust in different lights.

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As a character, he can never be satisfied with the present. What is coming next is what matters, until it arrives. Then he looks forward again. Making us share his passion is the strength of Ralph Yarrow's interpretation.