An innovative production of Doctor Faustus with an all-black cast is set to arrive at the Arcola Theatre next week.
Directed by Anna Coombs, artistic director of African-Caribbean theatre company Tangle, and whose past credits include award-winning productions of Everyman and The Jew of Malta, the production will see its UK tour end in Dalston at the Arcola Theatre.
Three actors will take on Marlowe’s classical text, weaving South African and Shona music and songs into the performance.
Joshua Liburd, former west end performer whose credits include Dreamgirls and Motown, is playing the eponymous character.
“It’s such an interesting experience, going from performing to a 1000 people every night to maybe 100,” says Liburd, “the classical text demands a different attitude towards the rehearsal process.”
The show arrives at at a time of increased awareness of diversity in theatre. Paapa Essiedu, the 27-year-old actor whose leading role in Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company has been lauded by critics, will himself be performing at Hackney Empire until the end of March.
David Emmet, chairman of Questors Theatre Ealing said that theatres are currently ‘bending over backwards’ to recognise and showcase the talent of BAME actors, but more needed to be done to address the ‘considerable concern’ that is the lack of a variety of black television actors.
The show aims to appeal to people who ‘may not necessarily have access to watching the classics being performed’ says Liburd. ‘There is more and more diverse casting around now, but not so much in the West End, unless you count era specific shows like Dream girls.’
The cast have played to a packed house in Exeter’s Bike Shed Theatre and received glowing reviews. ‘Breaking that boundary between understanding a traditional British text and communicating a contemporary relevant performance is very exciting’ says Liburd. ‘It would be naive to suggest that every shows needs more cross cultural involvement, but no one should be isolated from watching good theatre.’
“To those aspiring actors – Never stop working, learning, watching. Be alert to new theatre, because even when you’re watching you’re analysing skills and techniques. Do what’s challenging, do what you love. The rest will follow.”
Doctor Faustus is at the Arcola 13-17th March. Tickets available online at https://www.arcolatheatre.com/event/doctor-faustus/