The Faith Healer is one of Brian Friel’s earlier works, dating back to 1979. Indeed it was also – if memory serves me well – one of Newpoint’s earlier works under the late, great Sean Hollywood and indeed – and I stand ready for correction – may even have featured present company director Sean Treanor then too.
The play consists of monologues given by the Fantastic Francis Hardy, the eponymous Faith Healer, his long-suffering wife Grace and his manager Teddy. It calls for great concentration from all three cast members as each character’s persona develops before our eyes. Soon we gather that the tale as told by Frank differs considerably from that as related both by his wife and by his manager! They talk about the same times and the same recollections, but each reflection is very different from the others.
From the writer’s point of view, there is the endless search for truth and the inevitable embellishment that people impose on their own actions and points of view. The public may accept the Faith Healer as a medicine man – or a gift from God, or whatever – but it is clear that all three of the stage characters see Frank as a performer.
Denise Hughes will play the desperately pained but loving wife Grace who has seen it all. Like her husband she finds refuge in alcohol. From her own slant she repeats Frank’s stories of love and hate, success and failure. She recounts how – soon after qualifying as a solicitor – she ran off from her family and a safe, middle-class life to be with her ‘mountebank’. She desperately loves him and can forgive him anything. She has few regrets after twenty hectic and often painful and sad years on the road with him.
There were a few nights of success. On one night in
Is Frank truly a faith healer, or a charlatan? At times he is both.
The impresario/manager Teddy is an unashamed show business philosopher. He will attempt anything to promote his act. He maintains this impression despite the physical and mental collapse of the others. In the finale there is a shocking denouement as all three characters seek peace in their own different ways.
Friels’s lyrical language style carries the day as he paints beautiful verbal pictures. Is this show-business or life as lived every day by all of us?
I have little doubt that Declan McDaid, Sean Treanor and Denise Hughes will give us a real treat in the final week of this dark month of November in Newry’s Arts Centre.
Recently deceased (from Cathedral Parish Bulletin, Nov Week 4)
Marie Sommerville Elmwood Park
Geraldine Montray Forest Hills
Rachel Cregan Barcroft Park
Kim Jennifer Lennon Cambrook Estate, Bessbrook
Sean Paul Campbell Millvale Mews, Bessbrook
David Ronnie Toner Second Avenue, Derrybeg Park