043 – Faith Healer, by Brian Friel
Frank Hardy is a faith healer who is only occasionally able to heal. In fact nine times out of ten nothing happens. Frank, his long-suffering, indefatigably loyal wife Grace, and his manager, Teddy, tour small towns in Scotland and Wales hoping that Frank’s gift may reveal itself to the hopeless few that turn up to be cured. Grace and Teddy are tethered to Frank by their lack of alternatives and by his intermittent charisma and charm, despite his indifference and cruelty. When they have finally exhausted their chances in Britain they return to Ireland, where on a night in a pub in Donegal they reach the end of the road.
Each of these three characters tells their own version of their tawdry and tragic story in a sequence of monologues that together form Irish playwright Brian Friel’s masterpiece, Faith Healer. Although the premiere of the play in New York in 1979 was not a success, the Abbey Theatre in Dublin gambled on restaging it shortly thereafter, and it was a critical and popular triumph. The seminal 1980 Abbey production was directed by its young Artistic Director Joe Dowling, who recently returned to the same theatre more than 40 years later to direct a landmark revival of the play.
I am thrilled to be able to talk with Joe Dowling about a magnificent play that he has a unique knowledge of.
Joe Dowling was born and educated in Dublin where at the age of 28 he became the youngest Artistic Director in the history of the Abbey Theatre. He followed his time at the Abbey by running the Gaiety theatre in Dublin, before moving to North America, where in 1996 he was appointed Artistic Director of the prestigious Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. In his twenty years in charge at the Guthrie he directed more than 50 productions, including Shakespeare, American classics by O’Neill, Miller and Williams, as well as Irish plays of course, including Faith Healer in 2009, which he not only directed but also appeared in.
Joe recommended The Gigli Concert by Tom Murphy
The Footnotes to our episode on Faith Healer include observations on the elusive faith of the healers and the healed, and on the emotional truth of our memories.
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Photo by Helen Murray.
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