Faith Healer

Written by Brian Friel

Thursday 18th January to Saturday 20th January 1996

Directed by Damon Wakelin

Francis Hardy is a man with a gift, the ability to heal the sick, but he is no doctor. Friel leads us through the lives of three tortured souls; Frank, his wife Grace and his agent Teddy, touring their tawdry show through the dead-end village halls of Scotland and Wales, they and their audience waiting for a miracle to happen.

AuthorBrian Friel

Brian Friel (b 1929)

Friel was born in Omagh, County Tyrone. Educated in Derry, he worked as a teacher and councillor. His first radio plays were produced in 1958: 'A Sort of Freedom' and 'To This Hard House'. These were followed by 'A Doubtful Paradise', his first stage play. Friel began writing short stories for The New Yorker in 1959 and shortly afterwards, he took leave from his full-time job in 1960 to pursue a career as writer.

During the early 60s he wrote 59 articles for The Irish Press and found his first success as a playwright in 1964 with 'Philadelphia Here I Come!'. 'The Loves of Cass McGuire' and 'Lovers' followed in the next 3 years and during the remainder of the 1960s and the 1970's Friel produced further works including 'The Freedom of The City', 'Volunteers', 'Living Quarters' and 'Faith Healer'.

One of his more successful plays is 'Translations' which he wrote in 1980. However that decade is marked for him by a dearth of writing. It seems the conflict for his time as Director of the Field Day Theatre Company meant little time for writing. However, following his resignation from that post he was able to rise to prominence again with plays such as 'Dancing at Lughnasa' which was written in 1990 and which is probably his most widely performed and successful play.

An intensely private man, Friel rarely gives interviews or information about his private life. He was elected to the Aosdana in 2006 (being one of only seven living members allowed to hold that post at any one time) and in 2009, The Queen's University of Belfast built a new theatre complex and research centre named after him.

PlayFaith Healer

Faith Healer is a play which consists of three characters, speaking a series of four conflicting monologues who struggle to understand the life Frank Hardy, the play's itinerant healer who can neither understand nor command his unreliable powers, and the lives sacrificed to his destructive charismatic life. The first and last are delivered by Frank who, after performing in lowly one-night stands in Wales and Scotland, returns to his native Ireland (to the fictional town of "Ballybeg" - a town used in many of Friel's plays) in the hope of restoring his ailing powers. The second speech comes from his long-time mistress, Grace, who has forsaken her patrician legal background to join him. The third is delivered by Teddy, a seedy showbiz agent who has stayed with the couple out of a devotion that even he cannot fully understand.

Faith Healer was written in 1977 and premiered in 1979. Although the Broadway premiere ran for only 20 performances, it has since has earned a great deal of public acclaim.

The Bench Production

Faith Healer poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


FrankDavid Penrose
GraceNicola Scadding
TeddyVincent Adams


Director Damon Wakelin
Stage Manager Paul McMahon
Assistant Stage Manager Rob Bartlett
Lighting Design Steve Wilkins
Lighting Operation Steve Wilkins
Leaflet Design Pete Woodward
Costume Design John O'Hanlon
Kathy O'Hanlon
Set Design Damon Wakelin

Director's Notes

Faith Healer is, on the surface, the story of "The Fantastic Francis Hardy, Faith Healer", a man endowed with a gift, the ability to cure the sick. It is an erratic, unpredictable power, one that often frustrates but occasionally astounds.

Yet Friel makes no attempt to explain or dismiss, prove or disprove the nature of this power; its origins are never sought or shown and he does not judge as to whether Frank is blessed or cursed.

Instead, through the medium of three intensely private personal histories all relating to a world of shared experience, we explore interweaving themes of faith itself (in humanist, non-secular terms) and truth and how we perception alters truth; we walk the thin line between eloquence and violence and share the protagonists' disappointments, disappointments made all the more profound because they are haunted by the possibility of a miracle and by the hope that hope still exists.

Bench regulars will recognise Friel as the author of Dancing at Lughnasa which was successfully produced by the company in July 1995. Indeed the Portsmouth News was moved in its review to describe it as "compelling" and "utterly convincing". Certainly audience reactions since confirm it as one of the most fondly regarded productions of recent times. I hope 'Faith Healer', described on its release on Broadway as "the finest play to come out of Ireland since J.M. Synges' 'Playboy of the Western World', will be just as favourably received.

Damon Wakelin