It was unusual to walk in to the theatre and see an overpowering sea of whiteness with an enormous pentagram in its midst. But Doctor Faustus is an unusual play. The tale begins with a clever scholar from Wittenberg attempting to decide what to devote his academic life to. He chooses the black arts and quickly becomes proficient. He is able to summon Mephistopheles, an incredibly powerful demon. They agree a pact: in return for 24 years of total power over Mephistopheles, Faustus will sell his soul to Lucifer, an agreement that he bitterly regrets in the end. Faustus’ final monologue, where he is dragged down to hell by Mephistopheles’ demons, is the dramatic crux of the play and was performed harrowingly by the lead, Matthew Given.
The performance started with a foreboding musical introduction, part of an incredibly professional score composed by some of the school’s musicians, Ben Salwey, Adrian Tsui and Christopher Brain. It created a dark, mystical atmosphere as the actors walked on stage, dressed all in black apart from their devils’ tails. The actors then donned the rest of their costumes in full view on stage and took their places on benches at either side. No one left the stage after this. The level of ensemble theatre that this represented was much greater than anything I’ve seen before at Winchester and this desire to create theatre that is less traditional or restricted by rules is very exciting.
There was a slickness to the performance, moments of hilarious comedy and considerable talent from the whole cast. Particular highlights included Dick and Robin’s (Seb Walsh and Luca Ryan) brilliant comedy duo, which ended with them crouching on the ground, bewitched into an ape and a dog; the Good and Bad Angels (Seb Walsh and William Thomson) rocking on swing sets bedazzled with fairy lights; and Mephistopheles’ (Arthur Ritchie) brilliant, physical portrayal of each of the Seven Deadly Sins, one after the other. The whole performance felt avant-garde and new without ever alienating the audience.
3rd April 2020
As LAMDA Showcase Evenings move on-line for the foreseeable future, one pupil writes about the development of LAMDA, and its popularity, at Winchester.
25th October 2019
Running the steeplechase is a significant rite of passage at Winchester. Winner of this year's Senior Steeplechase tells us about his experience of running and the history of the event.
23rd October 2019
One of the stars of the show writes about his love of acting, the importance of drama at the school, and the latest production.
19th June 2019
The standard of acting and directing on display at this year's Junior Drama Festival was as high as ever. This wonderful house competition, bringing together fourth and first years to put on a production is a highlight of the summer term, proving hugely enjoyable for participants and audiences alike. One of the actors reflects on his experience.
17th June 2019
This year's Shakespeare summer play was an abridged production of Twelfth Night, held in the QEII Theatre. Pupil and actor, Matthew Given, writes about the challenges and joys of putting on the play.
9th April 2019
In this year's Wykeham Journal, guest editor, Jeremy Duns celebrates the long and successful life of Bill (Cecil) Hodges.