- 1 Faust the character
- 2 Faust on stage
- 3 South African adaptations of the Faust myth
- 4 Sources
- 5 Return to
Faust the character
Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend (based on the historical Johann Georg Faust - c. 1480–1540); a highly successful scholar, but also one dissatisfied with his life, who therefore makes a deal with the Devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Faust's tale is the basis for a large number of literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical works.
(For more on versions of the Faust legend, see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faust)
Faust on stage
Plays and comic puppet theatre loosely based on this legend were popular throughout Germany in the 16th century, often reducing Faust and Mephistopheles to figures of vulgar fun. The two most famous straight stage versions are Christopher Marlowe's The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (better known simply as Doctor Faustus) and Goethe's Faust. There are also a number of more serious operas, ballets and films on the theme, including the opera Faust by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré (see below). Burlesque or pastiche versions of it include the popular Faust et Marguerite by Michel Carré (1819-1872) and a presentation billed in South Africa as Prof. Pepper's Ghost, Pepper's Ghost or simply The Ghost (said to have been "exhibited at the Polytechnic, London" and "illustrating the drama of Faust".
Discussed below are those plays specifically known by the title Faust, and that have been performed in South Africa at one time or another.
Faust a verse tragedy by Goethe
The original text
Faust is a German verse tragedy in two parts by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), and in this reworking of the story 200 years after Marlowe, Faust becomes a dissatisfied intellectual who yearns for "more than earthly meat and drink". (Faust in Wikipedia).
The work evolved over time and went through a range of different forms, including the earliest manuscript version, known as the Urfaust, (developed between 1772 and 1775) which has twenty-two scenes, one in prose, two largely prose and the remaining 1,441 lines in rhymed verse). Next came a printed version called Faust, a Fragment, published in 1790, and in 1806 a preliminary version of what is now known as Faust, Part One. This was published in 1808 and a revised edition in 1828–29.
In 1831 Goethe completed the manuscript of Faust, Part Two and it was published posthumously in 1832.
The two parts of Faust rarely performed as a whole, but the play is nevertheless widely regarded as Goethe's magnum opus and is usually cited as the greatest work of German literature. The first recorded performance was on May 24, 1819, when selected scenes were played at Castle Monbijou, Berlin and the Premiere of the complete Part One took place on January 29, 1829 at Braunschweig. The world premiere of an unabridged version of the entire piece was only performed at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland in 1938.
Translations and adaptations of Goethe's play
Goethe's German version has translated into English prose and verse by numerous authors over the years (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goethe%27s_Faust), and is usually known in English as Faust, Part One and Faust, Part Two.
A translation of both parts (One and Two) was done by W.J. Erlank, the text being performed in Stellenbosch in 1966 as opening piece in the newly built H.B. Thom Theatre. The text was published by Nasionale Boekhandel in the same year.
Performances of Goethe's Faust in South Africa
Though seldom performed in its entirety, parts of Goethe's version have often been done in South Africa.
1888: A one-man performance called an Extract from Faust formed part of Charles du Val's repertoire on his tour of South Africa, and Boonzaier (1923) records seeing it in the Old Mutual Hall in Darling Street, Cape Town, during November of this year, with Du Val playing all three the leading roles.
1966: A production of Parts One and Two Faust was performed in the Afrikaans version by W.J. Erlank, was done by the Drama Department of Stellenbosch University for the opening of the H.B. Thom Theatre in Stellenbosch in 1966. It was directed by Fred Engelen, assisted by Rina la Grange, set design by Keith Anderson, costume design by Elaine Aucamp, choreography by Libby van Blerk, lighting and sound design by Fred Engelen, songs by Jan Bouws, organ music and improvisations by Boudewijn Scholten, Production management by Emile Aucamp, Stage Manangement by Pieter de Swardt. The cast consisted of professionals, departmental staff and students and included Siegfried Mynhardt as Mephistopheles, Pieter Bredenkamp as Faust, Fred Stephens as Wagner, Tine Balder as Margaretha and Rina Botha as Martha. others who would later become prominent in the theatre included Pieter Joubert, Gretchen Holzapfel, Herman Pretorius, Johan Esterhuizen, Mees Xteen, Charles Fryer, John Cartwright, Rita Sierts-Ehlers, Woutrine Theron, Rahila Steyn, Annalize van der Ryst, W. Laurie.
1980: Faust (Part One) opened at the Nico Malan Theatre on 14 October 1980, directed by Dieter Reible, with Michael Atkinson, Diane Wilson, Elizabeth Archer, Percy Sieff among the large cast. Decor and costumes by Raimond Schoop, lighting by Pieter de Swardt. The translation into English by Philip Wayne was used.
Faust an opera by Gounod
The original text
This opera in five acts was composed by Charles Gounod, with a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. The general plot is taken from Carré's play Faust et Marguerite, which is in turn loosely based on Goethe's Faust, Part One. The opera premièred at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris on 19 March 1859.
Performances of Gounod's operatic version of Faust in South Africa
1890: According to D.C. Boonzaier (1923, cited in Bosman, 1980), the opera was performed in the Vaudeville Theatre, Cape Town by the visiting Verdi Opera Company, featuring inter alia Emilie Melville (Mrs Verdi). Apparently not greatly satisfying to the public, Boonzaier adds.
1894: D.C. Boonzaier (1923, cited in Bosman, 1980), records a performance of the opera in the Opera House, Cape Town by members of the Lyric Opera Company, under the management of Edgar Perkins and A. Bonamici. The performers included Marguerite Macintyre, Signor Verdi and Leonora Braham.
1899: Performed in the Opera House, Cape Town by the Arthur Rousbey Opera Company, under the management of Frank de Jong and Herbert Flemming. The performers included Arthur Rousbey and Mrs Rousbey, whom Boonzaier, styles the "the best Marguerite I have seen" (as cited in Bosman, 1980: p.407).
1903: The third act of the opera was performed in Cape Town by a visiting Italian Opera Company headed by Miss Capellaro and Mr Deneri, brought out for a season at the Good Hope Theatre by the Wheeler Company. The season commenced on which on 26 October.
1905: Performed as part of their repertoire on tour by the visiting Moody-Manners Opera Company, inter alia commencing a farewell season at the Good Hope Theatre under the management of the Wheeler Company on 24 April.
South African adaptations of the Faust myth
A notable South African reworking of the myth is Faustus in Africa by William Kentridge and the Handspring Puppet Company (1995). The script combines section of Part One and fragments of Part Two from ** Bulgakov’s The Master and Magrita and new material by the South African poet Iesega Rampotokeng, so that the idealism of Goethe’s Faust is tested against the more earthy materialism of South Africa. The legend of Faust is based on the story of the sixteenth-century learned scholar who squandered his fortune and then sold his soul to the devil in exchange for additional time to search for the meaning of existence through travel and indulgences. After making his pact with the devil, Handspring’s Faustus goes on a safari. Indulging in elaborate feasts and buying sprees, Faustus attempts to consume all that Africa has to offer. Transposed to Africa his desires become those of the archetypal greedy colonialist – his victims the African people and their land.
It was first performed at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival, Grahamstown 1995 by Handspring Puppet Company, directed by William Kentridge and using an integration of film animation, actors and puppets. It then toured to Germany and other parts of the world.
Creative Team: Production: Handspring Puppet Company in association with The Market Theatre, Art Bureau (Munich), Kunstfest (Weimar), the Standard Bank National Arts Festival, The Foundation for the Creative Arts, and Mannie Manim Productions. Director: William Kentridge; Design: Adrian Kohler, William Kentridge; Animation: William Kentridge, with assistant animator: Hiltrud von Seydlitz; Additional text: Lesego Rampolokeng. Lighting design: Mannie Manim ; Sound design: Wilbert Schubel Music: James Phillips, Warrick Sony; Costumes: Hazel Maree, Hiltrud von Seydliz. Cast: Dawid Minnaar, Leslie Fong,Busi Zokufa, Louis Seboko, Antoinette Kellermann, Basil Jones, Adrian Kohler. Performances: 1995 South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, UK, Portugal, Australia, Belgium, Israel, Denmark, Austria, France, Spain, Italy, USA
Programmes: Faust, H.B. Thom Theatre, 7 October, 1966;
Nico Malan Theatre October 1980.
Go to ESAT Bibliography
Return to South African Theatre Personalities
Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays
Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays
Return to PLAYS III: Collections
Return to South African Festivals and Competitions
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page