Actor and director Stephen Lee directs and performs in his bold new production of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.
Rarely performed in Perth, Marlowe's stunning and compelling play Doctor Faustus will be performed at The University of Western Australia's New Fortune Theatre, an astonishing outdoor facsimile of an Elizabethan playing space, a setting for which the play was written.
Thoughtful, daring, darkly funny and yet also intensely truthful, it is a masterpiece comparable with many of Shakespeare's plays, written at the height of Marlowe's powers.
Stephen Lee is an award-winning director who has directed 30 productions of either Shakespeare or his contemporaries. His Doctor Faustus features David Meadows, one of Perth's pre-eminent performers of Shakespeare.
"In a real tour de force of juggling different styles, Marlowe's play swings from powerful and impassioned poetry to broadly hilarious comedy as Faustus fritters away his time in a series of practical jokes and showy magical tricks," Mr Lee said.
"And finally, as his last hour ticks away, Faustus must face his own demons, and struggle with his pride to ask God forgiveness."
Mr Lee delights in playing a variety of roles in Doctor Faustus: amongst others, he plays Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor as a manic German tyrant obsessed with the idea of seeing Alexander the Great. He also plays the thuggish, stupid vintner and Wrath, a very angry member of the Seven Deadly Sins, and the erudite and professorial First Scholar.
"It is interesting how much of the play is broad comedy, despite ultimately ending in tragedy for Faustus. There's a lot of laugh-out-loud, slap-stick and Benny Hill-style farce. So we need to keep our performances strong and funny, while always remembering the darker aspect of the text," Mr Lee said.
"We also have the interesting experience of ensemble playing, so most actors have four or five roles to play - even as Director I have to play four roles!"
Versatile and energetic, Stephen Lee has been working as an actor for 37 years, 27 of them as a professional. He trained and worked in London, and arrived in Perth in 2002. The first play he directed here was The Taming of the Shrew for GRADS, in the New Fortune Theatre in 2003. Since then, for GRADS he has directed Much Ado about Nothing, Midsummer Night's Dream, Noises Off and What the Butler Saw, plus the pantomime Aladdin.
Mr Lee still works extensively in professional theatre, primarily for Class Act Theatre, but has a warm regard for GRADS which was the first company to give him work in WA. Lee's production of Aladdin won the Finley Award for Best Pantomime last year.
The Graduate Dramatic Society first staged Shakespeare in the New Fortune in 1964, and has been presenting quality plays at The New Fortune Theatre annually for 20 years.
Performances of Dr Faustus at the New Fortune Theatre, UWA are at 7.30pm March 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28.
Ticket prices are: Standard: $35, Concession: $25, Groups of ten or more (including school groups): $20.
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