Review: Doctor Faustus at the RSC

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.233  Friday, 8 July 2016


From:        Kirk McElhearn <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         June 27, 2016 at 4:32:36 AM EDT

Subject:    Review: Doctor Faustus at the RSC


Theater Review: Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe, at the Royal Shakespeare Company


A funny thing happened the first time I had tickets to see Doctor Faustus. My partner and I were all set to go to the theater one Tuesday evening in February, and I went to get the tickets and noticed that they were for the night before. We weren’t able to get to see this show at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre for a while, since we moved a few weeks ago, but finally had a chance last week.


Doctor Faustus is often a long, tedious play. The language isn’t as interesting as Shakespeare, and the plot meanders. In this new production, directed by Maria Aberg, the play is fast. It zips by in about 1:45, with no intermission, which is an excellent length for a play. But that tempo comes with risks.


One of the interesting elements of this production is the casting of the two main characters. Sandy Gierson and Oliver Ryan walk on stage and each one lights a match. The one whose match burns out first plays Doctor Faustus; the other Mephistopheles. This suggests that the two characters are both part of a whole, and it would be interesting to be able to see both actors perform each of the roles.


We got the chance to see Oliver Ryan . . . , who I recalled playing Jacques in As You Like It in 2013 (also directed by Aberg). His Faustus is manic, as if he’s on speed. His diction is fast, his movements often overexcited, especially in the first part of the play. Faustus leafs through all his books, looking for answers, and ends up drawing a white pentagram on the stage, and calling for the devil. During this long scene, Ryan acts as though he has little time, as though his life is a burning match about to extinguish itself.


The seven deadly sins scene changes the tone a great deal. Each of the “sins” is portrayed by an actor in a sort of Rocky Horror Picture Show outfit, and their lines are over exaggerated. There is music and singing, a bit of dancing, and from that point on, with more actors in a number of scenes, the tone changes, being less about a single character’s mania, but more about the mania of the world.


Orlando Gough’s music is some of the best I’ve heard at an RSC production, but it was too loud. With Ryan speaking quickly, and Gierson somewhat softly, I often lost the thread. While the play was visually stunning, I had trouble keeping up with the plot because of this. During the Helen of Troy scene at the end, I could barely hear what Gierson was saying, and had no idea how this scene linked to the rest of the play.


On the smaller Swan Theatre stage, this Faustus seemed a bit cramped, but, in a way, perhaps that was the right fit. Everything was compressed, concentrated, in space and in time, giving the entire production a unique feel. I didn’t dislike the play, but I would have enjoyed it more if the music were toned down a bit, and if the actors – particularly Ryan – spoke a bit more slowly. Perhaps the desire to keep the play short led to a decision to have Faustus speak fast; if so, I would have appreciated another ten minutes to allow his words to be more understandable. I’m not alone in this feeling. The Birmingham Mail called it incomprehensible gabble, giving the play one star out of five, and other reviewers noted the same problem.


It was certainly an enjoyable evening. I very much appreciate Aberg’s approach to theater, and found her As You Like It – the first RSC production I saw, back in 2013 – to be magical. It seems that, after running several months, and reading the reviews, she should have slowed things down a bit, and perhaps toned down the music. In spite of these criticisms, I would recommend seeing this play. It’s innovative and very visual, and, if you’re familiar enough with the text to be able to compensate for words you miss due to speedy delivery, you might even understand everything that happens.


I took advantage of £15 tickets the RSC offered through its Twitter account, @TheRSC. If you use Twitter, keep an eye out in case they have lots of empty seats again and have another such offer. I might take them up on it if they do so again; in spite of my reservations, I’d be willing to see this play again, perhaps getting to see Sandy Gierson as Faustus.







Gale Researcher: Call for Contributions

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.232  Friday, 8 July 2016


From:        Kirilka Stavreva <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         July 7, 2016 at 9:04:08 PM EDT

Subject:    Gale Researcher: Call for Contributions


Dear colleagues,


Please consider contributing to the Gale Researcher British Literature series, as described in the call for contributions below:


Gale Researcher Query

We are looking for Early Modern and Shakespeare scholars who are interested in contributing to a series of eBooks for Gale, a division of Cengage Learning. We’re currently working to create two ten-volume series of eBooks (targeted at undergrads) on British Literature, both of which contain entries about Shakespeare and other Early Modern writers. Gale is interested in scholars who can write succinctly and clearly for an undergraduate audience. We are looking both for authors to write original essays and to revise essays currently owned by Gale.  Doctoral candidates are welcome, but must be currently affiliated with a college or university.  The deadline for essays is short: they would be due by July 30th, 2016. You would be credited as the author and/or co-author of the essay and there is a modest remuneration. 

If you are interested, please contact Peter Schumacher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and send him a list of your areas of expertise and a brief (1-2 page) CV.


Available assignments:

Essay Title


Playwrighting and Playgoing in Elizabethan London


Translating the Sonnet: Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and Anne Lok


Sir Thomas More's Utopia


Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene


"Shakespeare Plus" (Shakespeare adaptations in literature, cinema and pop culture)


Shakespearean History


Shakespearean Comedy


Shakespearean Tragedy


"For Knowledge’ Sake": Aemilia (Bassano) Lanyer


Sir Francis Bacon, essayist


John Milton's Paradise Lost


George Herbert and the Sanctuary of the Troubled Soul


Tragicomedies [genre]: William Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter


Tragedies: from the Renaissance back to the Classics


The Playwright as Historian [genre]: Christopher Marlowe to George Bernard Shaw


Patronage, Booksellers, Printers, and Publishers: The Case of William Shakespeare [history of the book]


Rome, Dismembered: William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (1592?) and Julie Taymor's Titus (1999)


Edward II: Sexuality and Politics in Christopher Marlowe's Play (1593) and Derek Jarman's Film (1991)




Best to all!

Kirilka Stavreva

Professor of English

Cornell College





The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.231  Friday, 8 July 2016


From:        Stuart Manger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         June 9, 2016 at 12:24:49 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Refusal


Many thanks to Hardy for unflagging enthusiasm for what will eternally need to be supported with enthusiasm. 


Stuart Manger




Actors From The London Stage

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.230  Thursday, 7 July 2016


From:        Actors From The London Stage <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         June 21, 2016 at 6:29:50 PM EDT

Subject:    5 British actors walk into a Bard...


Now in our 41st year, Actors From The London Stage inspires with the power of Shakespeare. Each weeklong residency brings the Bard to life on the stage and in the classroom. Our British casts – veterans of the most respected theatre companies in the world – tour campuses from Maine to Hawaii with their innovative five-hand staging of Shakespeare’s most beloved works.


NOW BOOKING 2017 & 2018




Fall 2016 - Richard III

Spring 2017 - Romeo and Juliet 

Fall 2017 - Measure for Measure

Spring 2018 - The Taming of the Shrew


Visiting colleges and universities sized 400 to 40,000, we work with you to create a residency customized to your unique needs and venues. Our team can help you develop a funding strategy, assist in the coordination of on- and off-campus partnerships, and design a residency that perfectly supports your personal, departmental, and institutional priorities.


Explore our tour history, marketing resources, and residency guides at the AFTLS WEBSITE.


Availability is limited; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request dates, rates, and details.


Founded in 1975 by Homer “Murph” Swander and world-renowned actor Sir Patrick Stewart, AFTLS is “an actor-driven tour de force.” Our actors hail from such prestigious UK companies as Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre, and the RSC. Uniquely, AFTLS actors not only perform a full-length Shakespearean play, but also visit dozens of classrooms during their weeklong residency.


In addition to enlivening theatre and English departments, the AFTLS experience can be tailored to enrich coursework across the academic spectrum. Our dynamic, hands-on approach will heighten each student's intellectual curiosity regardless of discipline. Whether coaching accounting students on successful presentation skills, or instructing law students in the art of persuasion, these workshops promote a campus-wide dialogue inspired by the works of William Shakespeare.



Early Bird Registration for the British Shakespeare Association Conference

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.229  Thursday, 7 July 2016


From:        BSA <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         June 17, 2016 at 11:02:27 AM EDT

Subject:    Early Bird Registration for the British Shakespeare Association Conference closes soon


Dear all,


This is a reminder that Early Bird registration for the BSA biennial conference in Hull closes at the end of this month. After July 1st, registration prices will increase from £180 to £200 for full price registration (£90 to £100 for concessions). All speakers must be registered in advance. If you have questions, please email the conference team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . You can access registration at the conference website.


Please note that all registrants must be members of the British Shakespeare Association in good standing. If you need to renew your membership, please do so first on the BSA website. If you think you have already paid for this year but need to check your membership number or status, please get in touch with the membership officer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Please remember to leave sufficient time between renewing your membership and registering for the conference. The membership officer will endeavour to respond to all messages as quickly as possible, but membership renewal is not instantaneous.


Kind regards,

Peter Kirwan

BSA Membership Officer



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