Ophaboom, Faustus

Review in Issue 11-4 | Winter 1999

Ophaboom's wooden trestle stage – complete with trap door and a backdrop providing opportunities for puppetry – testifies to their commitment to commedia dell'arte, as do their masks, made by three master mask-makers. Ninian Kinier Wilson's Mephistopheles mask threatens to steal the show at times. David Bere's working of it is impeccable, and worth the price of the ticket alone.

Buffoonery, bordering on the ridiculous, drives this telling of Faustus: the darkness of the story is replaced by comic daftness. Topical references to political figures and Macdonalds suggest its modern relevance, although the performances lack satirical bite. And visual imagery is disappointingly absent from the seven deadly sins. The puppets, used as miniatures of the stage characters, are reminiscent of children's theatre, and the music is basic. Nevertheless, the company's comedic skills are apparent in both the movement and the precision of gestures.

Some aspects of commedia technique used by Ophaboom pay off, others, particularly when repetition is involved, can become imitating. And why mask the woman, especially when the mask is too small and muffles her speech? – in commedia dell'arte the women bared their faces. Live interaction with the audience, perfect for street theatre, works less well indoors. Some gags are overworked, some embarrassingly weak, although the battle of the vegetables is a spirited invention. You have to be in the right mood to enjoy this show – a couple of pre-show pints should set you up.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 1999

This article in the magazine

Issue 11-4
p. 24