With SUTCo’s four-day run of Doctor Faustus well underway, director Maddie Murphy gives us her insight into how a production like this comes together.
Dr Faustus is an Elizabethan classic. What makes it relevant for an audience today?
I really think Marlowe’s characters are what make it so exciting for a modern audience in that they’re entirely unique. He does an amazing job of making characters relatable for an audience member from any walk of life, especially Faustus and Mephistopheles. We all have parts of them in us, I think! The emotions those two characters explore are experienced by every person in their lifetime. That’s what makes this text so relevant even today.
What are some of the challenges involved with adapting such a well-known text for the student stage?
I think although it’s such a well-known play, the difficulties came from the fact that Elizabethan theatre is not easily accessible to an audience, especially a morality tale like Dr Faustus. I knew I wanted to make a horrifying play, but the concept of hell and demons just isn’t enough to scare people anymore. Because of that I really had to make Faustus’s world horrifying, so I turned to a lot of horror tropes like flickering lights and slamming doors.
The language is really challenging to overcome as well. In my adaptation I’ve moved Dr Faustus into a very domestic space by giving him a wife and a child, and there’s something really hard about showing intimate family moments with such old language because it can seem forced. But the cast are really amazing and they do a fantastic job with the language. They’ve turned it into a strength.
What aspect of the process has been the most fun so far?
Definitely spending time with the cast. They’re all such amazing people and I haven’t worked with the majority of them before, so it’s been a lot of fun getting to know them over the last couple of weeks. We have such a laugh when we’re together!
How did you develop your vision for this production?
I have quite an overactive imagination, so when I’m reading something I’ll often start to see parts of it in songs I hear or films I watch. As an actor I’ve always imagined texts from an acting perspective and how a certain character should move or how I would want it to appear on stage. One day I heard the song ‘Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene’ by Hozier, and from there I started to think about the idea of Faustus and Mephistopheles having a sexual relationship, and that was that!
Once I had the idea, I was constantly thinking of ways to flesh the characters out. A lot of the play is drawn from people in my life, even if the audience and cast don’t know that. If someone looks a certain way or says something in a certain tone and it strikes a chord with me, I found a way to include it. From there I had a clear idea of what I wanted, and how the characters would look, move, and speak.
In a sentence, why should people come and see the play?
I think that it is a very different take on a very well-known play, and if nothing else, it will be entirely unique!
Doctor Faustus runs until Saturday 11 March at the University Drama Studio. Tickets are available from the SU Box Office or the SUTCo website.