Faith Healer**** (Donmar Warehouse)

Posted: July 25, 2016 in Theatre

faith healerCascades of water encase the stage before the performance and during scene changes. Lindsey Turner’s vivid revival of Brian Friel’s 1979 play takes us to very damp places, across the length and breadth of the British Isles, all corners of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.

The play is the story of three itinerants – the Faith Healer Frank, his lover Grace and their “roadie” resting actor Teddy. It is told from memory in subtle and detailed monologues by the three characters in which differences in versions of events are sometimes more meaningful than similarities. Throughout, Friel’s richly descriptive prose captivates and, when performed by three great actors, it often feels as if we are listening to epic poems on themes of love, yearning and belonging.

Stephen Dillane’s Frank is shabby, but charismatic and blessed with the gift of the Blarney. His career bolstered by reports of remarkable healing powers shown one evening in a tiny Welsh town, he knows himself to be fake, but finds consolation from casting small glimmers of hope onto despairing lives. He is rootless and he sees everything that happens to him as coming about by chance.

As Grace, Gina McKee is a woman who is nothing without the man to whom she is affixed, even though she acknowledges all his flaws. There is no Frank in her scene and her attempts to gloss over the absence and disguise the void are deeply touching. Ron Cook brings comedy to the wise-cracking Londoner Teddy, who can almost admit to being in love with both the other characters. He lightens the tone, but he also underpins the production with a haunting sense of pathos.

Sadly, Friel died in October 2015, but this superb production is a fitting tribute to him.

Performance date: 19 July 2016

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