Sunday, 6 February 2011

Faust Feast, Oxford

"In the basement beneath the rolling Quad of Trinity College, a scholar is preparing to offer the devil his soul in exchange for absolute power".

A major festival of Faust related plays, concerts and films take place now in Oxford. Few places could be better posed for true Faustian atmosphere - gargoyles, medieval colleges, cobbled alleyways and above all, ancient libraries, filled with arcane and ancient wisdom. And, one might add, Faust-like scholars buried in books. But some of the "nerds" that have haunted these halls have gone on to unimaginable things and often they don't have to sell their souls. Tim Berners-Lee, for example, who created the World Wide Web, who was at Queen's.

Two versions of Christopher Marlowe's Faust. One by Creation Theatre Company takes place in Blackwell's Bookshop, next to the Quad at Trinity. Imagine, the reality of a bookshop famed for its erudiite stoock, but actors wandering about. Very apt. "Ile burne my bookes!"

Another staging of Marlowe's Faust runs from 9th to 13th February in Corpus Christi College auditorium. Arthur Kincaid directs and acts as Faustus. A true town and gown production, half students, half normal locals. Interesting too, that these productions will use slightly different editions of Marlowe as well as different settings.

Goethe's Faust gets a much welcomed outing from 24th to 26th February in Queen's College Chapel with the Eglesfield Players. A modern translation, staged in a chapel, with a chorus in the cast, the production will "bring all the dramatic (and comic) potential without losing sight of its academic and religious debate" and its resemblance to Oxford life over the ages.

George Lord Byron's epic Manfred gets a reading by professional actors in New College Chapel on March 27.  Manfred of course inspired Schumann, but it's not a piece that lends itself easily to the stage, so hearing it read by people who know drama should be a good experience.

There's so much Faust-inspired music it's hard to imagine it in one concert - Mahler, Busoni, Berlioz, Gounod etc. So see what they do on 5th March at Corpus Christi. The films are Istvan Szabo's Mephisto based on the novel of Klaus Mann and Faustus a ten-minute art piece shot in Merton Chapel.  They're not showing F W Murnau's classic film Faust, but you can watch that on this site  in FULL DOWNLOAD. For more information contact the Oxford Faust Festival on email Prices are low, and the Films are free but this is such an adventurous project, it's worth making an effort to participate.

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