“Who's that ?” Christopher wondered as he was combing his hair, his surprise causing
him to speak out loud, albeit softly. ‘I'm sure he's staring at me.’; but this time
Christopher had just been tidying up after a necessary ‘pit stop’, and now, the paper
tissue disposed of and hands dry, he was concerned that he was making the best of
what was left of his hair. No longer the flowing locks of his youth, the passing
years had seen to that. ‘Just the opposite of my waist,’ he mused, for while he had
less on top, he had decidedly more around the middle.
He had altered his position slightly to get a better view when he thought he sensed
a movement. ‘Funny!’ he thought, almost, but not quite out loud, ‘I could have sworn
there was no one else in here.’
He had left his seat in the theatre a few minutes before the interval, knowing that
the facilities would soon be in great demand, and, more importantly, he hoped to
get a drink before curtain up for the second half.
Now, ready to leave, he felt able to turn and face the man in the corner and as he
moved to depart he glanced across but was surprised to find that he was indeed alone.
Resuming his movement toward the door, he glanced in the mirror and saw once again
the somewhat dim but quite clear image of a mysterious man. Not only that, but in
that split second he was sure that it was a face he knew. Spinning around with some
urgently, he faced the man, or at least where he judged him to be, and was shocked
once more to find no-one there.
Alarmed now, Christopher felt a tightness, and though he was on his own he could
not stifle a little cry. He was breathing heavily as he left the ‘gents’, trying
this time not to look in the mirror. Nevertheless, as he departed he knew full well
that he was being watched. He emerged just as the lights came up, and made for the
bar with speed, for now he had more need of a drink than just socializing. The lights
and the noise as theatre goers left their seats, and the need to beat the crowd galvanized
Christopher into action. It was his normal habit to get two whiskies, saving the
need for a second scrum, but this time he ordered three. Doubles at that!
Christopher quickly downed the last of his trio when the bell for the second half
rang out. Feeling somewhat calmer now as the Johnny Walker started to weave its spell
he took his place to watch the concluding half of the play ‘The Devil and the Man’.
It was a new production by a writer he did not know, but which had attracted rave
reviews. It re-told, in a modern way, the well known story of Dr Faust selling his
soul to the devil, and as predicted the first half had been truly absorbing.
The lights came down and the curtain went up in perfectly choreographed stage management.
On stage only the two wings were lit. On the left, seated, was the forlorn figure
of Faust, his forehead resting in the palm of his hand. On the right, arms aloft,
naked save for a number of long red silken banners, which billowed and tumbled around
him, strutted the Devil himself. With his long red hair flowing, and his ‘garments’
hanging in the air like smoke, he was animated and eager; cock-a-hoop at the prospect
of yet another conquest, for he knew that the good doctor was about to fall.
The first half had ended when the evil Mephistopheles had tempted Faust to abandon
his selfless and righteous life style, in favour of one that offered him all the
pleasures of the flesh, and every creature comfort imaginable. All he had to do was
sign a little piece of paper, surrendering his soul.
“Come my friend.” the devil breathed as he crossed the stage to open the second half,
the voluminous strands of his broad red ribbons floating around him. The ‘garments’,
if such they could be called, barely covered him, exposing an athletic body with
strong legs and bare feet, which seemed to glide effortlessly until he was standing
behind his intended victim.
“You have nothing to loose, and all the things you have ever dreamed of to gain”
“But to lose my soul?” whispered Faust.
“Your soul! Ha!. I’ll bet you never ever thought of it until I came along.”
The red spotlight completed the illusion of evil as it focused on the figure of the
slowly spinning devil, arms held high as he encircled the hapless Faust, the flowing
drapes of his garment loosely entwined around the poor man’s neck as he moved. “And
what is so great about your life that you want to hang on to?” He hissed “Where is
Christopher had all but forgotten his curious interval encounter, so quickly had
he becomes engrossed in the events unfolding before him. Faust stood up and walked
to the front of the stage; the lights dimmed and only a spotlight illuminated his
face, while behind him moving to a slow rhythmic beat danced Mephistopheles, just
visible in a faint but luminous glow.
Faust started to speak, quietly, almost a whisper as if to talking to himself, yet
every word was audible, such was the power that the actor had over the rows of spellbound
theatergoers. In the darkness of the auditorium the intensity of his delivery was
riveting, the minimal lighting adding to the drama. In his distress he pleaded with
his unseen audience for understanding of his torment, imploring forgiveness for his
weakness. Few of those watching and listening were unaware that he had lost his internal
battle, his soul; his very being; about to be forfeit; for ever!. It was a moving
soliloquy in which he spoke of his life’s work; of his dreams – mostly unrealized
– of his ambitions – mostly unfulfilled, and of his loneliness. The audience was
silent, responding both to the drama and the emotion, as a lonely broken man teetered
on the edge of mortality and sanity.
“Who is there to help me? he was imploring. “Who has seen the other side of this
veil to tell me right from wrong?”
As he sank sobbing to his knees the light switched to the devil, standing erect now,
legs apart, in victorious attitude, hands on his hips and smiling, his victory assured.
His sharp features and clipped red beard accentuated his jubilation as he anticipated
another human sacrifice.
Faust lifted his head and stared out into the blackness his eyes piercing as he gazed,
as if searching. Christopher was enthralled by such theatre. Never had he felt so
involved, so drawn as now. He wanted to communicate with Faust. Like a child at the
pantomime he wanted to shout out to warn him of the ‘bad man’ standing behind. The
power of the performance was such that Christopher was feeling faint, his breathing
hard and his eyes unblinking. It was as though the man on the stage was no longer
acting and Christopher felt that his eyes were no longer searching. He felt a stab
of pain in his chest when he realized that they were firmly locked onto his own.
Faust raised his head “Who will save me from the evil thing I am about to do?” he
implored. Christopher heard the words as he rose from his seat and walked towards
He climbed the steps at the side of the stage and went first to Faust. “You’re the
man in the mirror.” He said simply.
“Yes, I hoped you would come.” Faust replied.
No more words were spoken as he approached Mephistopheles, and took from him the
paper that was being offered. Christopher’s last impression was of the cruel eyes
and smiling mouth of the devil, and of the uncontrolled laughter that rang out as
he signed his name.
In the newspaper the next day, the following report was printed.
‘“Man suffers massive heart attack in theatre.” shouted the headline.
“Punter found dead in his seat at the end of the performance as Faust sells his soul
to the Devil.”
It was not reported however, that the man’s face, far from displaying signs of distress,
almost appeared to be smiling.