It’s one of the final shows to play at The Bike Shed before it closes its doors. The South West’s African Caribbean theatre company, Tangle, bring Doctor Faustus into modern day with music and song. Daniel Perks catches them before its opening:

The desire for fame and fortune, the desperation to turn to otherworldly powers and sell yourself in order to achieve superiority – this dark theme at the heart of Doctor Faustus is one that many of us can relate to and why it has remained Christopher Marlowe‘s most famous work. Like the desire to be remembered and revered, Doctor Faustus has stood the test of time – 400 years later and African Caribbean theatre company Tangle are tackling this renowned production with updated musical inspirations:

“Marlowe was not shy in coming forward with his views and beliefs – many of these things resonate with today. It’s one of the reasons why we are so keen to perform Doctor Faustus. The story itself has a relationship with the consumer society that we live in.”

“Take a risk, spend too much, drink too much, smoke too much and what happens?”

“It’s about ascension, downfall, life choices and consequences. Whether you relate the Faustus story to politics, society, personal health or life ambition, there’s an absolute resonance.”

Song is a way of touching audience emotions

Tangle Doctor Faustus

Joshua Liburd, Mogali Masuku & Munashe Chirisa

Tangle has a very unique aesthetic in that all of our work combines elements of traditional Western theatre with aspects of Southern African theatre. To develop that in a solid way, we need to work on texts which we feel absolutely confident in delivering. So, we’re adding a new ingredient, which is presenting classical material in a new and unique way – through song. Song is a way of touching the emotions of the audience and introducing them to their relationship with the piece that they see.”

Marlowe’s work is known for its overreaching protagonists, those that lean too far for the chance of greatness. Tangle note a resurgence in this character trait, which was prevalent in both the Elizabethan Renaissance and now in the present day. It makes the production of Doctor Faustus timely to say the least:

“There are so many parallels between the Renaissance period and life in Europe in 2018 – religious conflict, definitions of religion, questions about sexuality and gender identity. We consider it to be a very progressive society today, with equal marriage for instance; in the Renaissance, there was no distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality. If you look at the passage of history between 1564, when Marlowe was born, and 2018 the connections between society in Renaissance Europe and our society today is closer than any other era.”

The region’s principal African Caribbean theatre company

Tangle Doctor Faustus

Drawing common links and bringing seemingly different cultures together has remained at the core of the Tangle ethos throughout its own history. As the company approaches its 10th year, Tangle has celebrated the work of over 50 different heritages, integrating these into rural areas in the South West that have little cultural similarity:

“Tangle was initially founded from a cottage on a beach in West Cornwall as an international theatre project for the South West and it is now the region’s principal African Caribbean theatre company. There are hundreds of artists who have worked with the company in many guises since its founding in 2009 – they are our driving force and reason for existence.”

The Bike Shed – a hive of creativity

Tangle Doctor Faustus

The Bike Shed

Tangle clearly places artists at its heart, which is a key reason for its success over the years. The company opens its latest production in a venue that is unfortunately closing down, one that has helped define South West fringe theatre in recent years. After eight years, The Bike Shed closes its doors at the end of March, which makes Tangle one of the last companies to play in the space as it currently stands:

“We’ll be sad to see The Bike Shed, a venue with such a fantastic attitude and ethos, closing. They’ve always been open to discussion and ideas and different platforms making it such a hive of creativity.”

“For Tangle, we worked together on our research project Everything Matters, and have been strategic partners in seeking out opportunities to develop work together. They gave us the opening week of a show (The Crossing by Esther O’Toole) that became a sell-out and then went on to be a hit in London. They’re effectively doing the same with Doctor Faustus, giving us the opening week that will hopefully give us the platform for the tour that follows. It will be an honour to be one of the companies to give a this much treasured a sendoff.”



Doctor Faustus plays at The Bike Shed from 21 – 24 February, before touring the South West until 17 March 2018. For more information, visit the company’s website.