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Faustus Interviews: Paterson Joseph, Faustus

Updated Monday, 10th September 2007

Actor Paterson Joseph took the role of Faustus. How do you play someone who makes such an extreme deal?

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Copyright The Open University


When you’re preparing a part like Dr Faustus, for me the last place you go to is where he ends up, which is hell, fire and devils, and start with really who he appears to be as an ordinary man. And I do that really by just sort of looking at his biography, in a way, and you’re given some of that in the chorus, he talks a little bit about who he was and that he was probably a doctor of divinity, that he was deeply into God and religious things and a scholar and a very bright man, and that sort of gives you a bit of a picture of who he is. You look at his time, a little bit of research is always handy to find out what was happening at the turn of the century, Germany in terms of reforms and scientific reforms. We talked a little bit when we were rehearsing about Galileo’s ideas and how blasphemous they seemed and that Faustus takes that to a completely different level.

So that’s the sort of first thing that I look at, the man and his times and who he would have been, and then I start looking at the actual lines. And with verse it’s always really important just for comprehension to know about this little trick called the caesura, which is just a little break in the line, which just helps you to make sense of it just as a sentence, let alone it sort of the emotion behind it, that always helps. So I sort of tend to break it up and see where the metre is, where the rhythm is of the line, and if any lines go beyond the metre then there’s usually a reason for it, there’s a word that needs to be emphasised or there are words taken out because there’s a bit of a pause there. Then you see what people say about the character, how people talk about the character, who he seems to be to others, and that also helps to draw a picture.

And, of course, it’s always limited what people think who a person is really, it’s limited to their angle, and then he has his own view, so then you come and you sort of bring a third eye and say well, I’ll take a bit of this from what Scholar 1 says of him and I’ll take a little bit of this from what Mephistopheles says of him, and a bit of this from what Faustus says of himself and I’ll create a picture of somebody who I can believe in. And then it is really a matter of getting together with the other actors and reading it with them, so that’s, in a nutshell, my process.





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