Review: Faith Healer ****

Patrick Driver as Teddy in Faith Healer. Pic: Eoin Carey
Patrick Driver as Teddy in Faith Healer. Pic: Eoin Carey
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LYCEUM THEATRE, GRINDLAY STREET

PATRICK Driver is a storyteller supreme in the Lyceum’s take on Brian Friel’s Faith Healer. Emotional, funny, and tragic, he has the craic. Over all though, this is an uneven production that determines to frustrate.

A series of four monologues, Faith Healer is cursed with the tag a ‘modern classic of Irish theatre’. Expectations are high.

It tells a dark and tragic tale, teased out as three characters recall the same event and explore their interwoven relationships. A study of perspectives, if you like.

The Fantastic Francis Hardy is that most mysterious of breed, a faith healer who may, or may not, be all he seems. He attracts the desperate and the incurable, and sometimes he gets lucky.

Accompanied by his wife, Grace, played by Niamh McCann, and loyal manager Teddy, a garrulous Patrick Driver, Hardy roams Scotland and Wales, attended by the ill and broken, where ever he sets up shop.

Designer Michael Taylor’s austere set, two tables, some chairs, a barren fire place, shelves with books, and a cross, offers an uncluttered environment in which the actors to hold sway.

Sean Callaghan, as Hardy, may be a safe pair of hands, but is perhaps too safe, the rawness his characters pent up emotion and anger never quite connecting, much as his reluctant Irish burr wavers at points. In a character, written to be as unlikable as this, some element of redemption has to be found in the performance.

McCann too takes time to warm into her role. No such problems however for Driver who saunters around the stage regaling his attentive audience with tales of performing dogs and cursed pigeons with all the easy bonhomie of a seasoned raconteur.

Eliciting guffaws of laughter as easily as tears of sorrow, it is a show-stealing turn.

‘Fantastic Frances Hardy’ is in town for ‘one night only’, declares the poster that dominates the stage. Faith Healer enjoys a more substantial run at the Royal Lyceum. Persevere with the dry first act, and you will rewarded in the second.

Runs until 7 February

LIAM RUDDEN