Three revivals celebrating the 80th birthday of the Irish playwright Brian Friel got off to a strong start with a production of Friel's slyly, gracefully written masterpiece about living with uncertainty.
Friel ensures that the truth keeps evading us in this tale about Frank Hardy, a faith healer who tours shabby village halls in Wales and Scotland accompanied by his mistress, Grace, and his cockney manager, Teddy. All three relay their own versions of events, and the gaps between their stories are glaring. We're beset by nagging questions: is Frank a boozy conman or someone with a special gift? Was he imperviously cruel to Grace? What happened in the Donegal village where Frank attempted to heal a man in a wheelchair?
There are turns of phrase so simple and beautiful that you almost have to stop yourself from repeating them out loud. Thankfully, Robin Lefevre's staging, set in a cheerlessly lighted room, is never reverential, and there's nothing show-offy about the acting.
As Frank, Owen Rowe gives a performance of prodigious confidence. Encased in a big, shiny black coat resembling a coffin, he is an earthy presence, yet despite his ruddy complexion, at times there's a spiritual glow about him.
Ingrid Craigie's Grace is both bitterly amused and broken. She picks at her memories until they bleed, stuffing her hands into her cardigan pockets to stop them fluttering. And Kim Durham gives an entertaining turn as Teddy.
Like Frank's faith healing performances, these characters' lives are "balanced somewhere between the absurd and the momentous". We watch them seesaw there, in thrall to their persistent, agonised recollections.
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