What better setting for this superficially medieval morality play than the Unicorn Theatre in the heart of Abingdon’s former Benedictine Abbey?
The first surprise is to find the tiny stage decked out as an austerely clinical, and very modern, operating theatre with Faustus hovering between life and death on the operating table. The entire piece is played out against this background. Surgeons and nurses form a chorus or move in and out of role as angels, demons and other characters; whilst the hospital cleaner morphs into Faustus’ satanic servant, Mephistophilis.
Director Michael Ward has cut the text to allow the play to focus on Faustus’ journey through power, riches and fame to his physical and mental anguish in the face of death and eternal damnation. This creates a crisp, fast-moving drama, which is brought to life through the skilled delivery and characterisation of the cast. Whilst the standard of acting is consistently high, special mention must go to John Hawkins (Faustus) and Liz Adams (Mephistophilis). An impressive and well-judged use of audiovisuals complements the drama.
Dr Faustus was received enthusiastically by its first night audience: and rightly so. Abingdon Drama Club have taken a classic play, created an original piece of theatre and executed it to a standard that belies their amateur status. The Unicorn is not the easiest place to find, but Oxfordshire theatre-lovers will find their efforts rewarded by this thoughtful and thought provoking production.