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St Albans theatre group puts faith in Faust

PUBLISHED: 17:09 02 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:02 06 May 2010

Playing Faustus at Sumpter Yard

Playing Faustus at Sumpter Yard

IT S no small achievement these days to be a published novelist but Imogen de la Bere has gone a step further by staging her first drama, Playing Faustus. She handed her opus over to St Albans drama group OVO for its first outing and can only have been de

IT'S no small achievement these days to be a published novelist but Imogen de la Bere has gone a step further by staging her first drama, Playing Faustus.

She handed her opus over to St Albans drama group OVO for its first outing and can only have been delighted with the way members responded both to her writing and directorship.

The result was a clever and compelling play at OVO at Sumpter Yard which combined the words of Christopher Marlowe with the prose of Imogen de la Bere to great effect.

The play, by Imogen's own admission, stemmed from the difficulties of staging Dr Faustus and grew from an unpublished novel of hers which she wrapped around the notion of a small company putting on the Marlowe classic.

Consequently, she was able to incorporate some of Marlowe's finest lines from the original while bringing the story bang up to date.

To paraphrase, the story of Faustus who sold his soul to the Devil is replicated - albeit to a far lesser degree - by the plight of Anglican priest Stephen who is at odds with his calling and drawn particularly to a couple of the Seven Deadly Sins.

In the same way as Faustus crashes so does Stephen and the fallout shakes his little world in a not dissimilar manner.

Imogen, who lives and works in St Albans, wrote the play for a small theatre and small company but there is no doubt that it would transfer successfully to a larger venue. It is certainly good enough to fulfil her hope of seeing it performed at the Edinburgh Festival.

With OVO she is blessed with a strong acting team - her "stellar cast" as she describes them - and their enthusiasm for the play is palpable.

From Will Franklin's opening lines which sounded like they were being read by Boris Johnston to the constant ringing of Ian Jordan's mobile phone and the final epilogue from Anna Franklin, Playing Faustus is a delight.

It combines humour - great karaoke performances by Kieran Cummins as Brian and Faith Turner and Anna Franklin as Helen (geddit) and Emma - with plenty of pathos.

It also takes a long hard look at the Anglican church and what it can do to those most involved in it - Stephen and his long-suffering and extremely Christian wife Margaret.

David Widdowson as Stephen is always a pleasure to watch and his interpretation of the "fall" of Stephen is both dramatic and believable.

But it is the plight of Margaret, excellent characterisation by Alison Wright, which tugs at the heartstrings as she struggles to cope with her life and her erring husband.

Faith Turner as Stephen's own Helen turns in a remarkable performance, part ingénue and part woman of the world, and it is easy to see why Stephen's head is turned by her.

Playing Faustus is an excellent first play by Imogen de la Bere who already has two more ideas in the pipeline which OVO is surely hoping will come to fruition sooner rather than later.

MADELEINE BURTON

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