Theatre Review: Faith Healer

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A Belvoir Production, presented by State Theatre Company of South Australia
Reviewed 27 Sep 2018

The recipe for Belvoir St Theatre’s revival of Brian Friel’s classic 1979 play Faith Healer is so decadent, I—wrongly—assumed it would be a light evening. But a play composed of monologues demands your complete attention to every word said, every move made. This is a robust production that rewards the devoted attendee tenfold.

Three characters take to the stage to recall their time travelling through the backwaters of Wales, England, Scotland, trying and sometimes succeeding to heal those that come their way; when they eventually end up in Ireland—homeland of healer Frank and his (wife? mistress? saviour?) Grace. Brian Friel’s play retains all its’ original power here, the poetry and hardness coiling around each other beautifully. Paul Charlier’s sound design is haunting, and complementary to Verity Hampson’s precise lighting design. As director, Judy Davis’s presence is elusive—and I mean that in the best way possible. She draws you into each character’s world, and makes you forget you’re even sitting in your seat. That’s real magic.

In a play that reflects on memory and the past, the words find new meaning again and again, as past events are dredged up and turned over for lost details. A lot of how you respond to this play will depend on which character you align with; which one you believe. As a reviewer it’s almost impossible to be impartial on this front—for me, it is Grace’s story that holds the most truth, but to the person next to me, and the person next to them, it could be Teddy’s, or Frank’s. It would be interesting to be party to the dozens of forceful conversations in the foyer afterwards about who—and what—they believed.

It isn’t a competition though, and what we are really given are three truly magnificent performances. Colin Friels and Paul Blackwell exude charm in healthy doses, matching each other (consciously or not) in their dancing, lithe movements. Alison Whyte is a triumph and true highlight as the furious, raging Grace. Whyte allows every indignity and muscle of her beautifully drawn character to take centre stage.

Faith Healer will make you believe in the power of acting; of storytelling; of monologues. This was a truth hard won, but all the more sweeter for it.

Reviewed by CJ McLean
Twitter: @cjmclean_

Venue:  Space Theatre
Season:  26 Sep – 13 Oct
Duration:  2hrs 30mins
Tickets:  Adult $74, Concession $64, Under 30s $38, Primary/Secondary Student $30
Bookings:  http://statetheatrecompany.com.au/shows/faith-healer/

 

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