You might think Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is so “been there, done that,” but this new adaptation will surprise you in all the best ways. We sat down with the cast and creative team of the new play, Your Servant, Mephistopheles (otherwise known as “The Hell Show”), and found out how a fictional demon brought a group of queer theater lovers together… and where they’re headed next.
Tell us about your theatre company. What brought you together and what’s bringing you to Utah?
The playwrights, Else Buckley and Vale McComb, met in 2018 on a study abroad to London. Over the weeks, they bonded over Vale’s director concept for Doctor Faustus (the play our own is based on) and swapped life stories. Vale and Em Nulton also worked together on a couple of performances that year, and Braxton Young Church was a student in a class Vale taught. In 2019, Vale was able to bring that concept to life and directed Doctor Faustus—with Else playing Mephistopheles, Em playing the Good Angel, and Braxton playing Gluttony/Emperor.
We realized very quickly that we worked well together, and we want to create queer theatre for those who live in Utah and do not get much representation on the stage, particularly the asexual and genderqueer minorities.
How did “The Hell Show” come to be? What can you tell us about Your Servant, Mephistopheles?
After Doctor Faustus wrapped up in September 2019, Else and Vale began conceptualizing a version of the show that followed the demon, Mephistopheles, throughout the same sequence of events of Doctor Faustus. Through a process of improvising, ceaseless discussion, and occasional writing, they were able to develop a script, and then afterwards brought on Em to portray John Faustus, and Braxton to dramaturg.
Your Servant, Mephistopheles is a tight show performed by a genderqueer cast. It follows the story of the demonic deuteragonist, Mephistopheles (played by Else Buckley) as they keep up after John Faustus (Em Nulton) and lie to their boss, Lucifer (Vale McComb).
Having given up their soul in return for Mephistopheles’ service, John and Mephistopheles are locked into a contract for the next 24 years. It isn’t long before Mephistopheles realizes that they might have more in common with John than they had previously imagined, and how good companionship feels. In the time leading up to John’s eventual damnation, Mephistopheles claws their way through a range of emotions that aren’t usually associated with the fallen— faith, hope, and charity. But how successful could a demon really be at loving?
Tell us the where and when! How can people view and support your production?
Our Utah run will be July 29th and 30th at 8:30pm at the Rock Canyon Amphitheater. On Thursday (29th) there will be an after-show talkback as well! We learned a thing or two from COVID and will also be providing a streamed performance on July 31st.
After that, we’ll be registered through the Edinburgh Scotland Fringe!
How should people prepare for the experience? Or how should they prepare to receive your message?
Come with an open heart! This show, in many ways, is about empathy which can take us into some uncomfortable places. We’re hoping to make you laugh AND cry, so maybe bring tissues?
We’d also appreciate reflection on the marginalised/queer communities living in predominantly religious cultures. Even when you’re faithful to the popular religion, a part of growing with it will be painful.
We mean no offense with this show—only to express some of the pain that comes from trying to reconcile seemingly disparate things.
What has been some of the most memorable feedback or experiences from past performances?
At the final reading of our script, the executive producer of MAB Productions took Vale by the hands and firmly, said, “It’s good. It’s just. So good. Thank you.” That emphatic simplicity has stuck.
Another favorite compliment came from another two viewers of that reading who said afterwards they talked about it for at least an hour straight. We like making shows that make people think!
What’s something we haven’t asked that you want to tell us about your troupe and Your Servant, Mephistopheles?
This show was written by an ex and active member of the LDS faith. It’s been a collaborative effort to express the grief of leaving and staying with a childhood faith. Additionally, to have an all genderqueer/nonbinary cast and team has been something we’ve personally never seen in theatre, as well as having an all asexual-spectrum cast. Because of that, we wrote this play to be non-binary—all the characters are written with they/them pronouns. While this isn’t made textually clear, we also hope John and Mephistopheles, in their interactions, reflect the sexualities of the playwrights—demisexuality.
What are all the ways theatre lovers can support you?
Follow us on Instagram and TikTok! Tell your friends and come see the show! And if you like this limited run, please be vocal about it! Because we would love to come back!
Relevant dates and links:
July 29-30, 8:30 PM
Rock Canyon Amphitheater
2620 N 1450 E
July 31, Streaming
Thehellshow.com (Buy tickets! Read blog posts!)