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