Rachel O’Riordan's rendition of Brian Friel’s "Faith Healer" at the Lyric Hammersmith offers a fresh perspective on this 20th-century masterwork. While the play's intricate narrative structure may feel like a mental puzzle at times, O’Riordan and her talented cast navigate it skillfully, plunging into a psychic landscape with a striking visual backdrop by Colin Richmond.

Declan Conlon delivers a compelling portrayal of the enigmatic Frank Hardy who swings between charisma and vulnerability, leaving audiences questioning the authenticity of his character's claims. Justine Mitchell shines as Grace, vulnerable and bitter, which contrasts with Conlon's version of the truth. Nick Holder's Teddy adds another layer of complexity with his comically melodramatic persona, again adding to the play's powerful ambiguity.

O’Riordan’s production doesn’t overshadow Friel's original intent but rather illuminates its theme of the elusiveness of truth. I haven’t seen it before, but in its rawness and dark, moody stage setting, it seems to be a faithful version that respects Friel’s huge reputation and devoted audience.

The play structure in which the characters never interact creates a dynamic where versions of truth are questioned, Who to believe, we wonder silently. It demonstrates the power of storyteller and the willingness to believe the person sitting in front of us. And also, what is it about charisma that has a surreal hypnotic effect on people and their ability to question? The structure is an interesting dynamic but it does make for a rather static production and makes me miss traditional interaction between actors/ characters. Here, it is telling rather than showing which is the basis for the complexity of overlapping truths. O’Riordan’s revival is a haunting and thought-provoking exploration of Friel’s masterpiece, but Faith Healer brought its own flaws that can’t be changed. And for that, I am glad. No worse a reality than a play which absolutely everyone loves. Because that wouldn’t challenge anyone, and that is something definitely evident here in Friel’s analysis of truth and belief. Bravo to the Hammersmith. 


It runs until 13 April.


Review: Caiti Grove     Photos: Marc Brenner