WITH his back to the audience a Stratford-based businessman does a deal with a desperate man – and ensures his name in the annals of history forever more.

Meanwhile Christopher Marlowe languishes in exile, forced to fake his own death or face capital punishment for a few choice words of blasphemy spoken in a tavern debate.

Jamie Martin takes the audience into a world of Elizabethan inns and intrigue with a passionate and powerful performance, which encompasses the whole of the intimate Pit space.

As the aggrieved Marlowe tells his woeful story he literally climbs the walls and swings from the rafters, recreating a cast of 15 other players, ranging from dark-eyed lover Ide du Vault to the repulsive Catholic counterfeiter John Poole.

It is impossible to take your eyes off Martin’s performance – which is a masterclass in how to perform a one-man piece, augmented by a chest of minimal props and details like the ink stains on his fingers.

And the blank verse of Ros Barber and Nicola Haydn’s adaptation of Barber’s award-winning book creates the perfect period atmosphere.

The story is tender and bawdy, violent and poignant, taking in Marlowe’s struggles with his sexuality and religion, while he pens the greatest works of English literature.

Five stars