Friday, 29 July 2011

Doctor Faustus

Take the kids and the visiting Aunty to meet Lucifer, stare into the horrors of Hell, and be carried off by demons.

No, not locking them all in the outside toilet and running away with the key (although I considered it, as a cheap alternative), but taking them on a fantastic day out to The Globe to experience Doctor Faustus.

Yes, I am in love with The Globe, the staging, the actors that play here. They may have all my money and I can be done with the drip feeding.

I cannot help it. Here is a perfect closed O in which the audience and actors meet, eyeball to eyeball. And with a fantastic spectacle like Doctor Faustus, I feel as voyeur and participant: heavy breather without the telephone line, the action close enough on the extended open air stage, that you never know. At any moment, a member of the audience might just decide to climb up and join in.

I wouldn't be entirely surprised. Amongst us winds dumb show sex, seven deadly sins, angels and demons, bony skulls and luxuriant furs, dragons, wings, fire, swords, and the DEVIL. What a story. What an opportunity for close involvement, huge enjoyment, fantastic spectacle. Who wouldn't, at the very least, pay for that?

Faustus would, obviously, and quite a heavy price too, so there is morality and theology. I feel a sudden onrush of adult responsibility, taking three 11-year olds to see The Exorcist of its day, writ by a blasphemer and anarchist, and I come over all obliged to talk these matters through, in case issues Biblical have not made it into the children's repertoire during the last eleven years.

I probably needn't have bothered, but on the train into London I witter on about sin, salvation, damnation, sixteenth century Catholicism, predestination and pneumatology. (Where I store all this lot, I do not know, but sometimes it comes in handy.) I do not bother explaining anything of this to Aunty Dee. She boarded with the Quakers, so I assume she is au fait with all key God-related matters, or at least, if I get the story wrong, she isn't going to fight me over it.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger take it all in their stride. Maybe these themes just aren't that unfamiliar to them. Maybe they play out dramatically loud battles of good and evil everyday down the bottom of the garden, as they dig pits, bury unicorns, fight each other for the cuddly wombat, and finish off in tears hurling barbed obscenities at each other with faces that say hurt pride, injustice, wounds and fresh betrayals.

Well, this is what we can understand about God, the Devil and Faustus. The stories are so human. And Faustus! He has all this potential power, and what does he achieve? Satisfaction of the same nature-driven impulses as would the rest of us, if only we could be unimpeded by conscience and could get the power without the scary soul selling.

Be honest. Would you do any different? Gratification, indulgence, and fooling about while invisible, tweaking the noses of people in power in revenge because they piss us off. I ask the kids what they would do if they had unlimited power over all the earth and they came up pretty much alike. Chocolate cake as big as your bum and stealing your chips with an unseen hand while they laugh at your expression.

So Shark, Squirrel and Tiger understand quite a bit of this play without the need for theological explanation. I give them a slightly tedious lecture about the mystery plays and the history of God and the Devil on stage, which I think is possibly more helpful to their understanding than my vicar routine, but otherwise, it's an accessible play with straightforward story and evident themes, even for children.

At The Globe it is beautifully delivered. Comedy runs through this performance and holds it all together, so don't expect the darkness and horror of a Doctor Slasher. Pissing, puppet breasts, sparkler vagina, and all manner of bottom jokes contrast with hubris, despair, forgiveness, divine mercy.

The visuals are fast and slickly delivered, the puppets are excellent, the costumes, no expense spared. Arthur Darvill as Mephistopheles stole my heart with his louche lounge lizardry. (I might sell my soul to him if he's buying it.) I even momentarily shared his glimpse of all the cruelties of eternity and his perpetual mental torture as he carried his personal hell with him, at all times, in his head and in place of his heart.

So yes, take the family, go and see this spectacle, give The Globe all your money.

I suppose, since this blog is an educational record and not a theatre review blog, I should make one final educational point, and that is, what the learning journey can bring about when you hand over the route finder to the kids.

For me, gratitude. I am deeply grateful to Tiger. I cannot thank her enough for leading us here. In Hong Kong she entered a mad haze locked in her bedroom with a kid set of ten Shakespeare stories, emerging only to declare 'I want to see them all'. I said, 'Alright'. And that's what started us at The Globe.

For Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, where can their natural learning and inquisitiveness not take them? Here, straight to the eternal drama: God, the Devil, and humanity. With an awful lot of bottom jokes thrown in.*

*Of course if she had come from her room saying Mama, I have developed a deep love of football and Millwall in particular, where I would like to sniff the sweat of the crowds, then you are right. I might not have been so keen.


Kelly said...

Jealous, oh so jealous again. But if you are going to still be in London Sept. 5, you might want to head to the Globe again! The International Artist's Fellowship is doing a play that day (they haven't decided which yet). They just arrived, 12 souls from around the world, selected from 8,000, to prepare for one glorious day of on-stage Globeness. I know because one of my dear friends was selected to represent North America. He left Vancouver Saturday.

Grit said...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. we are gone to hk by then! think of me, hanging on the doorframes of the boeing.