Royal Court Theatre, London SW1
Opened 24 January, 1992

Brian Friel's dense, harrowing portrait of "the feud between [one man] and his talent" is a knotty fabric of belief, doubt, destiny, choice – faith and fate, as the programme notes have it – given its full disquieting head by Joe Dowling's acute direction.

Donal McCann is as mesmeric as "the man on the tatty banner" is said to be when in full miraculous spate. He intimates the deep vein of frustration of one who didn't choose his "gift" and can control neither its success nor its failure – nor the fallout upon those around him. As the now depressive, alcoholic wife whose very marriage he denies, Sinéad Cusack proves that Ulster cadence patterns were created for the purpose of spine-tingling dramatic understatement. Ron Cook's seedy manager provides (by now) much-needed fight relief, while covertly preparing us for the healer's final, grim account of the morning on which he renounced chance and provoked his own death.

You don't need to know that Faith Healer may be the archetypal modern Irish play; you need to know that it is profoundly affecting in all sorts of ways, and that this production is magnificent.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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