Jude Law makes a welcome return to the London stage on March 18 when David Lan's production of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus opens at the Young Vic.
Most of the press attention has focused on Law as a leading movie star famous for his sex appeal, but he is also, of course, one of our best young actors whose stage presence is as strong as his screen one.
This was recognized early on by the Young Vic's director, David Lan, who directed him in Ion at the Barbican's Pit in 1994 and who also directed him at the Young Vic in Tis Pity She's a Whore in 1999.
Law has often expressed an interest in playwright Christopher Marlowe, and there has been talk of him starring in a film about Marlowe's life and dramatic death (he was murdered). Marlowe was the only real rival that Shakespeare had in his lifetime, and had he not been killed when a young man (part of his romantic appeal), then his output of dark, troubling dramas would have continued to enrich the Elizabethan theatre. Law specializes in roles where there is a strong sense of danger behind the surface glamour of his looks, so for him to star in Marlowe's best-known play seems particularly appropriate.
Faustus, with its tale of magic and selling one's soul to the Devil, had a strong appeal to the Elizabethan audiences for whom Marlowe wrote the play, but its theme has also had a resonance through successive generations, which is why it has been reworked so often — in opera, film — as well as being continually played on stage somewhere in the world.
Faustus has often been played by an older man: Jude Law, explaining his decision to play the character, has said that he feels it is entirely in keeping with the play to have a young Faustus: "He has the eagerness of youth, he wants to experience everything now, he doesn't want to wait."
The play also tapped in to the Renaissance fascination with knowledge. Faustus is as interested in knowledge as in money, and in any case then, as now, information equals power.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow