The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.249 Wednesday, 27 July 2016
Date: July 27, 2016 at 3:16:06 AM EDT
Subject: Re: SHAKSPER: RSC Faustus
For Julia Griffin,
1. Whichever text of Faustus you choose the RSC production butchered it. No Chorus, missing the entire subplot where Faustus’s servants try to ape his magical skills, missing the horse courser, and missing the final scene where the scholars comment on Faustus’s remains. There were a lot more minor cuts to text
but very difficult to make sense of much of what was done.
2. ‘Costumes’ is an exaggerated term for what we saw. Faustus and Mephistopheles looked as though they had just stepped out of some modern drama set on a sink estate - apparently it was one of the ‘gimmicks’ of the production that both changed roles on different nights so that unless you were very observant you could not tell which one was which. Also a very hairy Good Angel with a pait of tatty wings. Where I was sitting you couldn’t see the Bad Angel. The stage littered with boxes and books - in other words a ‘cheap’ set.
I don’t ask for fidelity to the text, just a production that is comprehensible, and that is edited in such a way that doesn’t confuse. The ‘modern’ aspects of this production really did drown out the more historical (and religious) aspects which are important, and may be of some modern relevance. I can well see why there was no interval - too many members of the audience, - baffled by the production would have been tempted to leave.
A company like the RSC - on very heavy public subsidy - should behave more responsibly, I think. Not all they do is bad, but I see far more intelligent, creatively edited, (and at times genuinely experimental) Shakespeare up here in Scotland. This is far and away the worst production that I have seen here in recent years, matched, nay, even surpassing, I think by Rupert Goold’s ridiculous Merchant of Venice of a few years ago set in Las Vegas, and with Lancelet crooning Elvis Presley songs!