Theatre review: Faith Healer

THE WAY in which memory shapes our identities and the way in which we in turn shape our memories, selecting this detail and altering that, have been recurrent themes in the work of Brian Friel and nowhere more so than in his great play Faith Healer, currently running at the Town Hall.

Its three characters - the eponymous healer Francis Hardy, his partner Grace, and cockney manager Teddy - each give their own version of the trio’s time together touring the villages of Scotland and Wales as Hardy pursues his wayward gift hoping to find those occasional “nights of exaltation” when everything mysteriously clicks and he really is able to cure the desperate souls who come to see him.

Each character’s re-telling of their shared story is different and contradict each other in various details, leaving the audience to try and piece together where the elusive truth of the tale might lie.

Then again, maybe knowing ‘the truth’ isn’t the most important thing; the play offers a potent metaphor for the role of the creative artist and thus it may be that the power of a story matters more than whether it is ‘true’.

In Friel’s masterly hands, the stories related by Faith Healer’s three characters are undeniably powerful and hold the audience engrossed from the opening moments where Frank recites a litany of melodious village names to the fateful finale where he prepares to meet his doom in the familiar Friel locale of Ballybeg.

As Frank, Lalor Roddy eschews the touches of showmanship which other actors in the role tend to draw on but is no less effective for that. His Frank has a familiar, intimate feeling; you can imagine him sitting at the end of a bar counter nursing a whiskey, looking unassuming but with an air of mystery withal.

Ali White vividly conveys Grace’s brittleness, beneath the nervy surface of her words one feels the powerful churning of pain and loss. Rod Goodall’s Teddy is a delight; his hilarious descriptions of Rob Roy, the bagpipe playing whippet, has the audience in stitches but he can suddenly switch to moments of piercing emotion as he recounts some of the most heart-rending incidents in Frank and Grace’s story.

Andrew Flynn directs his fine cast with no little skill and sensitivity; this is a production that does full justice to Friel’s challenging, wonderful play. It continues at the Town Hall until Saturday.

Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie

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