Faith Healer

Brian Friel
London Classic Theatre
Theatr Clwyd, The Mix, Mold

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Paul Carroll as Frank Credit: Sheila Burnett
Gina Costigan as Grace Credit: Sheila Burnett
Jonathon Ashley as Teddy Credit: Sheila Burnett

Intense focus and concentration were very much the order of the day in Theatr Clwyd as Brian Friel’s challenging Faith Healer is impeccably delivered in this gripping London Classic Theatre production. Paul Carroll, Gina Costigan and Jonathan Ashley as Frank, Grace and Teddy respectively held the audience in a vice-like grip in The Mix, the temporary structure that is in place while the extensive rebuild of the main building is ongoing.

Temporary the environment may be, but this top-notch trio of performers could have held a troop of howler monkeys transfixed during an Ecuadorian monsoon, such was the precision and dexterity with which they delivered Friel’s demanding script. The fact that Faith Healer is delivered as four monologues by three characters, two in each half of the performance, means it is real test for the audience as well as the cast. Monologues of this length are a huge challenge to learn and deliver, especially considering all the intricacies of the plot and, in this case, there are no shortage of them.

The entire performance centres on the three characters’ recollections of events that happened twenty years ago and all have slightly differing recollections and therefore it demands the audience keep a close track of the monologues in order to spot any nuances or disparities.

County Wexford native Paul Carroll presents a fascinating portrayal of Frank the Faith Healer; one minute high on self-certainly, the next riddled with doubts and tormented by a past that is hazy to the audience. There is the essential hint of the supernatural about him, but also clear bewilderment about what, if any, gift he may have. There is genuine power in his performance as he rages and ponders, whilst continually teetering on the precipice of madness.

Gina Costigan is a compelling yet complex Grace, Frank’s wife. As with Frank, we are never sure how much of what she shares is real, and it is huge credit to Costigan that the audience are left unsure if her character is full of deceit, confusion or a mental affliction as she outlines the events from her perspective. This role demands that the audience are left with questions, and Costigan delivers that with subtlety and an impactful presence on stage.

Meanwhile, listening to both Frank and Grace, Jonathan Ashley is a suitably shifty Teddy, manager of Frank and, just possibly, a little more than a friend to his wife. The odd glance or glare from Ashley at something they mention speaks volumes and hints that the still waters of his outward appearance run deeper than we know.

And that is the true magic of this production; we are left guessing about so many aspects of the plot and questions will remain with you long after the stage lights have dimmed. Skilfully directed by Michael Cabot, founder and Artistic Director of London Classic Theatre, this is an engrossing and memorably mystifying production of Brian Friel’s classic work.

Reviewer: Dave Jennings

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