Reviews Roundup: The Faith Healer 4★

Lyric Hammersmith

Declan Conlon in Faith Healer. Photo: Marc Brenner

It was 4 stars across the board for Rachel O’Riordan’s revival of Brian Friel’s  Faith Healer. The now classic play from 1979 features three characters in four monologues: the ‘faith healer’ (Declan Conlon) at the beginning and end, his wife (Justine Mitchell), and his manager (Nick Holder) in the middle sections. Each partly contradicts what is said previously in a ‘complex interplay of faith, doubt, and every shade of love and hope’ (Whats On Stage).

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and therefore may not be accessible]

‘Three riveting performances anchor this revival of Brian Friel’s eloquent 1979 exploration of memory, love and belief,’ began Nick Curtis in his review in The Standard (4★). Calling it ‘perfectly pitched’, he said, ‘Rachel O’Riordan’s aching, unadorned production is drenched in regret and foreboding.’ Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times (4★) described how ‘In Rachel O’Riordan’s quietly spellbinding, beautifully acted staging, Friel’s artistry draws you in….Our encounter with this dog-eared trio is about the human need for meaning — and the role of theatre in that search.’ Sarah Crompton at Whats On Stage (4★) also praised the production: ‘O’Riordan opts to play up its humour and its social observations…The poetry is allowed to emerge quietly, landing its devastating blows, its uncomfortable truths.’

Kate Kellaway in The Observer (4★) observed: ‘It is wonderful, in Rachel O’Riordan’s attentive, level and serious-minded production, to be reminded of the sheer nerve and brilliance of Friel’s monologues from three actors.’ Dave Fargnoli in The Stage (4★) said ‘O’Riordan allows nothing to distract from the cast’s focused performances, methodically building an atmosphere of deep melancholy lightened by wry humour and intricately constructed wordplay.’ Like all the reviewers, he had praise for the cast: ‘Conlon’s truthful, humane performance captures the exhaustion and self-doubt…Justine Mitchell gives a profoundly powerful performance…(Nick Holder) ends up … hollowed out by loss.’ Mark Lawson  in The Guardian (4★) found the three actors ‘wholly convincing’. He trawls through 300 years of European culture searching for a comparison: ‘the show, in its emotional and narrative intensity, most resembles a spoken version of a Bach Passion.’

Writing for The Arts Desk (4★), Helen Hawkins’ only reservation was ‘the production’s comparative lightness of spirit sells it slightly short.’ She praised Justine Mitchell, saying she ‘gives the most pitch-perfect interpretation of this role I have seen…She is sadness incarnate.’

Dominic Cavendish in his Telegraph review (4★) took the opportunity to express a desire for more new work to be presented on stage, and expressed concern that ‘Faith Healer risks becoming something of a comfort-blanket classic’. Antithetically he went on, ‘Each retelling yields riches for the initiated and an opportunity for newcomers to be drawn into its protracted, lexically potent spell.’ He approved of the production: ‘You feel O’Riordan has the thoughtful measure of every line: it’s an unostentatiously stupendous production’.

For Franco Milazzo at Broadway World (4★), O’Riordan directs ‘superbly’.Andrzej Lukowski in Time Out (4★) stated: ‘O’Riordan’s take feels pristine and ageless.’

Average critic rating (out of 5) 4★

Value rating  118 (Value rating is the Average critic rating divided by the most common Stalls ticket price. In theory, this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60. This rating is based on opening night prices- theatres may raise or lower prices during the run.)

Faith Healer can be seen at the Lyric Hammersmith until 13 April 2024. Click here to buy tickets directly from the theatre

If you’ve seen Faith Healer, you are welcome to add your review and rating below (but please keep it relevant and polite).