Selling yourself one soul at a time

By James Keller

The concept of selling one’s soul to the devil has been explored countless times in theatre and literature. Its popularization may be traced back the script of the University of Calgary Drama Department’s newest production. The funny thing is, it was probably more religious criticism than anything else.

"Christopher Marlowe was an athiest," says Anton Degroot, who plays Pope Adrian in Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. "He put so many different levels into it. He really criticizes some of the things the church was doing at the time–a lot of it was historically accurate."

The play follows Dr. Faustus, who after becoming extremely well eductated in traditional areas of academia like law and physics, decides to delve into the area of magic, conjuring up Mephostophilis, a servant of the devil, Lucifer. He agrees that, in the exchange for Mephostosphilis’ services for 24 years, he would turn over his soul for eternity.

Although this story is considered a classic by many, some theatregoers may not be open to how this production was put together.

"I think a lot of younger people are going to really appreciate it," begins Degroot. "But a lot of older people that are expecting a stuffed shirt Elizabethan play aren’t going to quite like it. It’s a lot different than a regular Shakespearean or Elizabethan play like this."

While director Frank Totino uses this play for his thesis, he stays close to the original script and makes the play more modern.

"It’s dark and it’s sexual, but not overly," says Degroot. "I think it fits the more modern kind of theatre that the [U of C] does."

These differences include the changing of Mephostosphilis’ character from a man to five women.

"It’s very, very different, so it adds that sexual tension," Degroot says about the purpose of these changes. "It’s director’s choice. Anything can be sexually twisted. I think it’s a little more fun and adds a little more tension to it–a little more edge."

Again, the Shakespearian language was still preserved even given the new style of the performance. Unfortunately, the script does pose potential problems for audiences unfamiliar with the language.

"It’s always a little bit of an issue," says Degroot. "There’s always the people who come who are the Shakespearean and Elizabethan buffs and they know every little piece, but I think the aucience is going to deal with it alright because of some of the visuals we’ve got."

The script was also a barrier that many of the cast had to deal with.

"It’s very challenging, especially for the actors. It’s like learning a new language," explains Degroot. "I was having a really hard time dealing with just the character, but on top of that there’s this whole other language. It’s just about finding the intention behind what everybody says.

Aside from the language, the actual plot itself may not seem realistic in our time. However, it was used by Marlowe to examine larger issues of responsibility.

"It’s entirely Faustus’ choice that he falls," begins Degroot. "I think Marlowe just used the devil as a tool to show that even though there may be outside sources affecting you, you made the choice in the long run. It’s your call. Faustus is the one who signs his name. He chooses."

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