Dr Faustus actor, Nicholas Tennant speaks about his pact with the devil.
By Kenn Taylor
In February, Liverpool's Playhouse Theatre showed a new production of Christopher Marlowe's classic play, Dr Faustus, the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for fame and adoration. Nicholas Tennant, the experienced theatre actor who appeared in the lead role of Dr Faustus, speaks about the play, production and pacts with the devil.
When asked his thoughts on the play, he says, "Although I've never seen it, it's one of those classic plays that you are always aware of as an actor, as an alternative to Shakespeare, in a way, as it was written around the same time." Despite his experience, as an actor - he has played in many of Britain's top theatres from the RSC to the Royal Court - Nicholas has never played a lead role before. "I usually play the friend or sidekick." So when offered the lead in Faustus he "couldn't say no" and he feels the time is right for him as an actor to take on the challenge of a lead. "Acting's like being an athlete: if you're a sprinter you can't do the 10,000m straight away, you've got to build it up."
Asked if he felt suited to the role, he says, "I'm always surprised when I get cast for certain things; you think, is that me?" But Tennant feels he can relate to the classic character of Faustus. "I can imagine what it's like, the frustration if you've done the right thing, studied and worked hard and you still haven't got what you want how far will you go?" He believes this is quite a universal feeling and that this is part of the play's appeal. "I think that's one of the reasons the play has lasted. Making a pact with the devil is an image that runs throughout popular culture in music and film. We've all been there, asking that voice if we could only get this or that, is that a good or a bad voice?"
Tennant hopes that this production will put to bed some popular misconceptions of Dr Faustus. "People have massive preconceptions about the play. Because of its age, a lot of people assume it's going to be long and they won’t understand it." He believes that the way some "frosty" past productions have presented the play have helped perpetuate this image. "The theatre is not a museum, you've got to reach out to the audience, we've tried to make it accessible and modern." The play employs some special effects and a few scenes have been cut, but Nicholas believes that it remains true to the spirit of the original. "Really it is a young person's play, quite funny in places; Marlowe was 26 when he wrote it. We have just tried to dust off the cobwebs."
Nicholas singles out for praise Dr Faustus’ director Phillip Wilson - who also previously directed the Playhouse's Noel Coward double bill - for creating an inclusive atmosphere around the production.
This is Tennant's first visit to Liverpool. But despite this he says the reputation of both the Playhouse and the Everyman around the country speaks for itself. "If you're an actor there are certain theatres you just hear about wherever you are. The Everyman and Playhouse are two of them." He is also impressed with the company's current renaissance. "I saw The Odd Couple, great show. I was glad to see how full it was on a Wednesday, beginning of January. The audience seemed to have a great time." But it also gave him another feeling. "I thought s**t I've got to be on there in a few weeks trying to match this.”Printer friendly page