Brian Friel’s playwright, Faith Healer, aimed to challenge how we perceive storytelling, truth and reality. Under the direction of Judy Davis, the Belvoir production followed the life of Francis Hardy, his wife Grace, and his manager Teddy. Often drawing modest crowds, the Irish trio recount the successes and failures of curing the sick. The people who come to Frances Hardy do not crave healing, but the confirmation that healing is impossible; Francis does not omit this point, and this dismal notion sets the tone of Faith Healer.
The audience followed three similar recounts of the same escalating series of events centred around a tragic anticipatory finale. The similarities and disparities between the recounts highlight major themes of the plot, such as loyalty, ambition, hope, and perception. Ultimately, this is a story not only of human condition, but also faith - the faith in healing when faced with success, the lack thereof when healing fails, and a complex faith in people.
Frances Hardy (Colin Friels) is portrayed as a charismatic healer and sometimes performer. The first monologue laid the foundation for the complex monologues to follow, initially confusing yet ultimately brilliant. Upon first glance, the set seemed bare and untelling, however as the monologue progressed and the audience were engulfed in mesmerising storytelling, the design was infallible. Brian Thomson’s set design perfectly complemented the impactful dialogue, and allowed the audience to fall into the depths of their imaginations for the remainder of the production.
Alison Whyte’s performance as Grace Hardy was an impactful statement. Her character, Grace, was depicted as a broken woman struck by the realities of cruelty, trauma, and ultimately heartbreak. Her dissatisfaction from the unrequited love felt from Francis Hardy was empathised with by every audience member, a realistic depiction of brokenness that added to the challenging last act. Her broken spirit was encapsulated by Tess Schofield’s costume design, shown in a faded outfit with with messy hair and a bottle of booze.
Paul Blackwell’s character, Teddy, was initially posed as an amusing character for the benefit of the audience. However, as it often is with comedy, the combination of comical relief and confronting dialogue created a challenging monologue. It can be hard to find the balance between comical and impactful, and yet the perfect combination of both is credit to the professionalism and skills of both Blackwell and Davis.
This complex production is not for the faint of heart, and I would never recommend it to someone who was looking for a light, comical show. But the discreet yet outwardly confronting themes made it a truly engaging piece of theatre, which called on the audience to engage in self reflection long after the final applause.
Image from State Theatre Company : here
A review of Belvoir Production, Faith Healer, presented by State Theatre Company. Performed at Adelaide Festival Theatre, Space Theatre, Thursday 27th September 2018. Written by Brian Friel, directed by Judy Davis. Actors including Colin Friels, Alison Whyte and Paul Blackwell.