Faith Healer

Theatre, Drama
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(6user reviews)
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 (© Johan Persson)
1/5
© Johan Persson

Stephen Dillaine (Frank) in 'Faith Healer'.

 (© Johan Persson)
2/5
© Johan Persson

Gina McKee (Grace) in 'Faith Healer'.

 (© Johan Persson)
3/5
© Johan Persson

Ron Cook (Teddy) in 'Faith Healer'.

 (© Johan Persson)
4/5
© Johan Persson

Stephen Dillaine (Frank) in 'Faith Healer'.

 (© Johan Persson)
5/5
© Johan Persson

Gina McKee (Grace) in 'Faith Healer'.

Brian Friel’s masterpiece about a man with an unreliable gift was once called a ‘non-play’. It’s not the sexiest poster quote, but you get what the critic meant. ‘Faith Healer’ is formed of four monologues, spoken by three characters whose lives are inextricably linked but who never meet on stage. In Lyndsey Turner’s production, which contrasts period props with a stark modern set, each monologue is further boxed in by a curtain of rain. It’s as hypnotic as the ensuing cascade of language.

We may not see any interaction. But the characters’ memories are endlessly crisscrossing, cutting a crooked path towards the showdown in a pub in County Donegal. First we meet Frank, an Irishman who’s spent a lifetime vanning it round the British Isles to heal the sick – or not heal them, as the case more often was. It’s a masterfully unhurried performance by a wild-haired Stephen Dillane, last seen dallying with supernatural forces as Stannis Baratheon in ‘Game of Thrones’. You’re charmed by his crumpled magnetism. You’re sympathetic, as the playwright himself must have been, to a man cursed with unpredictable artistry.

But partner Grace, recovering from a terrible trauma in a London bedsit, introduces new angles. As she recalls life on the road with this charismatic charlatan, she contradicts elements of his monologue. She’s constantly revising her shading of his character, too. Frank was ‘a man in complete mastery’, ‘a twisted man with a talent for hurting’, ‘an artist’. Gina McKee is a little too cool and composed to convince as someone who was ever in thrall. Instead she conveys the paleness of a woman who feels she has become ‘one of his fictions’. She revisits her own memories ‘like a patient going back to solids’.

The penultimate monologue belongs to Frank’s cockney manager, Teddy, whose absurdly comic tales from the (bagpipe-playing) dog-end of showbusiness peter towards more momentous disclosures. Ron Cook is fantastic as the third point of the triangle – the witness to, and custodian of, all the damaged love.

'Non-play' my arse, frankly. Friel, who died last year, gave a very Irish value to storytelling: it’s not the action but the recounting of it that matters, not the event itself but the story it seeds. The words themselves teem with dramatic action in Turner’s suppley spoken production. Meanwhile designer Es Devlin draws attention to the dramatic form by bordering the stage with a litter of intersecting metal poles. It looks like a huge game of pick-a-stick, a nice metaphor for the instability of memories. You can’t take up your own story without dislodging all the others.

By: Bella Todd

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LiveReviews|6
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tastemaker

I don't normally like a monologue type of play, but this one I have to admit I quite liked. An interesting interchanging set with three great roles played superbly by the cast.

Tastemaker

A Brian Friel classic, beautifully brought to life by Stephen Dillane and Gina McKee, I tip my hat to Ron Cook who was fantastic as the cockney manager. It has quite an emotionally heavy theme, so be in the right mind-set to go see it. Wonderfully acted and a powerful set design that changes with each character.

Tastemaker

Three monologues; three different points of view. Frank, the eponymous healer, bookends the play with his hypnotic reminiscences both beautifully lyrical and devastatingly sharp. Grace, his wife, is delicately anguished and fragile, her eyes locking with the audience as if in desperation as she looks into the past. Frank’s cockney manager Teddy, a chirpy, faded budgie harking back to the golden age of music hall turns, reveals his tender love for both his star and, poignantly, Grace.


I haven’t seen a production at the Donmar that has let me down, especially in terms of the set, and this is no exception. The stage is a caged sheath of rain, as hypnotic as Frank’s words, coming down in spears of light (and splashing the front row who fastidiously spread handkerchiefs and chiffon scarves over their knees). The three sets themselves emphasise the lonely world of the three characters: Frank’s a bare, boarded stage with a couple of stacked chairs; Grace’s a tiny flat with a meagre electric heater and, in the corner, an open trunk containing the remnants of Frank – a pair of broken black shoes and his promotional poster; Teddy’s a musty bachelor room with its cabinet of dark bottled beer and, in a more prominent position, the same poster now framed in an attempt to immortalise the memory of the faith healer and the constancy of Grace who kept it.


A stunning, mesmerising production that beautifully captures the ephemeral nature of truth and memory.


(p.s. keep an eye out for £10 front row tickets via http://frontrow.donmarwarehouse.com/)

tastemaker

A very worthy revival from the great playwright Brian Friel.

The play is a series of monologues delivered by Stephen Dillane, Gina McKeen, & Ron Cook. The writing is rich,and interesting, but the first two segments from Dillane & McKeen were a bit stodgy, I found the delivery a bit flat, and struggled to give the production my full attention. The third segment, delivered by Ron Cook was stunning, and cranked the whole production up a few notches.
Tastemaker

Yet again, another absolute delight from the Donmar. The play was basically made up of a set of soliloquay’s but I have never this executed so well. It is far too easy for a soliloquy to drag on a bit or become a bit tedious but they were all from endearing characters that contradicted the previous one (who you had got to like so much that you believed every word of what they said!) before the truth was revealed at the end and believe me, it was worth waiting for. Big round of applause to Stephen Dilane, who played Frank Hardy, for dealing so well with that one person who just didn’t switch their phone off! It rang at least 3 times and eventually he just stopped, gave ‘the’ stare to the woman and carried on. It’s so off putting when that happens so very impressive that he snapped straight back into character and seamlessly continued his masterpiece. I love Brien Friel, and this play is another example of why. Don’t miss it! 

Tastemaker

Incredible, theatre at it's very best.  I hadn't seen or read Friel's Faith Healer prior to this and my heart did sink slightly when I saw that it was a series of monologues, thinking it would be tedious and heavy going, but as soon as Stephen Dillane (aka Stannis) appeared on stage I was spellbound.  The multiple monologues, delivered brilliantly by all actors, creates leads the viewer along as almost a detective trying to piece together the truth - if such a thing exists in a story such as this.  Leaves much to talk about post-theatre and special mention to the pre/between scene staging - art installation worthy, try and get the Monday Morning 10am Front Row tickets if you can, well worth it.