20 August, 2009

Festival Blogger review - Faith Healer

Image: Kim Durham . Photo: Trent O’Donnell.

Whilst the concept of a play containing absolutely no dialogue may not be appealing to everyone, Robin Lefèvre’s production of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer really does astound on so many levels. The play is unusually structured as a series of monologues by a terrific ensemble cast of three characters - witty and charming faith healer Frank (Owen Roe); his wife Grace who is trapped in her own dystopian reality (Ingrid Craigie); and comical manager Teddy who provides a detached commentary on the other two characters (Kim Durham) - each giving their own (often conflicting) reflection on Frank’s career and a deep personal tragedy which affects them all.

The genius of this production lies in its simplicity. For example, Liz Ashcroft’s set design is minimalistic throughout, which is particularly effective during Grace’s monologue as it emphasises how empty and drab her life is. One particular feature of interest is the constant presence of two empty chairs on the right side of the stage, the significance of which comes into full poignancy in the penultimate monologue.

From a theatrical perspective this really is a very brave play, and although there cannot be said to be one single key incident or turning point, the play remains thoroughly engaging throughout, which was demonstrated by the audience showing their appreciation with applause at the end of every scene, in addition to a standing ovation at the end. At one point in the second act, the acting was so realistic and strong that many members of the audience murmured in agreement with the character of Teddy as though he was directly addressing them, which is a true rarity in a play as serious in nature as this.

Faith Healer is essentially a play which explores differing takes on reality, and threads its way through an enticing puzzle of fact and fiction, ultimately allowing the audience to decide who is the most honest of the three characters. Above all, we must decide for ourselves whether Frank really is “a twisted man with a talent for hurting” as Grace portrays him to be, or whether there is more to his often hostile relationship with his wife.

Reviewer: Scott Clair

No comments: