Keep the faith! Brian Friel’s play set for Belltable

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

BRIAN Friel’s ‘Faith Healer’ might not be among the celebrated playwright’s best known works, but it is rightly hailed as a masterpiece for the richness of his writing and the intricate nature of the plot, largely delivered in monologue form.

BRIAN Friel’s ‘Faith Healer’ might not be among the celebrated playwright’s best known works, but it is rightly hailed as a masterpiece for the richness of his writing and the intricate nature of the plot, largely delivered in monologue form.

Town Hall Theatre’s production of the Friel play comes to Limerick next week as part of a massive nationwide theatre tour - 18 venues over seven weeks - easily the biggest this year, with touring productions less and less prevalent due to straightened funding allocation.

Faith Healer has in fact only been toured nationally twice - and one of those was by the now defunct Island Theatre Company, giving this production a deep rooted resonance to Limerick.

“It is the biggest tour this year and is very ambitious,” explains director Andrew Flynn, a noted practitioner from Nenagh who attended Mary Immaculate College several years ago.

“I was given a brief to find a play that could be done for a modest budget and could possibly tour. Initially it was conceived with a smaller tour in mind, and what happened was when word got out amongst venues that this project was happening, there was a huge appetite from the venues for the product, and luckily it managed to get some funding to make it happen.”

The piece is one of Friel’s most intriguing, following a faith healer and his travelling companions - and the audience is kept guessing right until the very end as to the story’s veracity.

“It is very different from his other plays in that it is a monologue piece and what I think he has done is some ways is gone back to the purest form of theatre,” explains Flynn.

“He has taken everything away, there is no set, you never see people exit or leave, they don’t talk to each other, they literally have a conversation with the audience.

“What Friel has done is put all his faith in the words and the actor, and it is a fantastic experience. It is challenging for an audience because you have to be willing to invest in it, you have to go and carefully listen, and if you do I think it is a rewarding experience. It is very enriching.”

Such a piece would not work without an extremely strong cast, and in Lalor Roddy, Ali White and Rod Goodall, Flynn has assembled an multi award winning cast with a huge volume of theatre, tv and film work behind them.

“They are a fantastic cast,” says Flynn. “They all had a huge love for the play, one they had all wanted to do for a long time and that appetite has made life really easy from my perspective because they were really up for the challenge of this play and tour. They are three very different people with different styles, but they have gelled and they have breathed life brilliantly into the characters Friel has drawn.”

The play’s simple staging makes it an easy one to tour and it should be at home in the Belltable’s newly renovated auditorium.

“I was in the new building for the first time since it has been renovated recently. It is beautiful and it will be lovely to go here with a play like this,” he adds.

Faith Healer runs from October 6-8 in the Belltable. Tickets on sale now.