The fantastic Francis Hardy faith healer one night only”, reads the tattered six foot tall poster on the wall of a modest apartment. With the heavens visible over his shoulder, a restless man in a drab suit sits poring over the last twenty years of his life, spent on the road as a traveling mountebank. Concerned with devotion, addiction, and guilt, Faith Healer is at once beautiful for both its minutiae and the colossal themes with which it wrestles. Although the subject matter might at times be difficult to agree with, the production was nothing short of a joy to watch.
Three separate perspectives that at once corroborate, conflict and contradict demarcate the acts of this piece, with Patrick Driver, Niamh McCann and Sean O’Callaghan each delivering utterly captivating performances as their respective characters. As they step on stage to recount their tale, years of toxic relationships, an itinerant lifestyle and the deception inherent to a mountebank’s craft have created tensions that underscore and construct each sentence. In a script which defies constraint to what is said, the plot is more the filling in of gaps by the audience in a story which is not so much a didactic narrative but a conversation in which the audience is actively participating. Brian Friel’s lyrical depth and nuanced approach to memory and identity, has rightfully earned him a place amongst Ireland’s great literary figures of the twentieth century. He gifts a sterling script to the Lyceum’s production, however, John Dove’s direction is certainly not to be over-looked. With no one else on stage to play off, each actor alternates in the delivery of monologues. Although on a relatively simple stage, with few musical instances and flood lighting, each actor constructed a full and total backdrop for their character’s version of events. The choice of a minimalist set, uncluttered by props, was simple and effective, allowing the audience to concentrate on the cast’s fantastic performance.
A play which showed life for all its hues when a less capable cast might have produced a tragic monochrome, resulted in an exciting and thought provoking exploration in which the audience was made to question each sentence. However bleak or harrowing some of the moments may be, still the Lyceum regularly burst into laughter. Faith Healer is neither exclusively tragic nor comic: it is honest.
Recommended for anyone, but see this if you want to be left wondering and deciphering mankind for at least a pint after the curtain falls. In a seemingly simple, yet profoundly beautiful performance, our understanding of memory, truth and the fundamental nature of the relationships that form our lives are scrutinised by both cast and audience alike.
Simple yet beautiful.