Brian Friels’s four monologues from three characters tell very different versions of the same events.
Stephen Dillane is utterly believable as Frank, the charismatic, self mocking, untrustworthy Faith Healer who may or may not have the gift of healing and if so, has no understanding of it. He holds the stage quietly yet compellingly, eyeballing the audience with a mix of irony and shiftiness. You wouldn’t want to get too involved with this man but you might not be able to resist given the chance.
Ron Cook plays his manager Teddy, perhaps the most interesting character of the three: on the surface all cockney swagger as he tells his story while chain-drinking (as in opening up a new bottle of pale ale before he finishes the last one). But underneath the bluster is a warm, truthful and partly broken heart.
Gina Mckee plays Grace, Frank’s girlfriend, struggling to hold herself together as she spills her heart out in her seedy bedsit. She is perhaps the least developed of the three characters – an occupational hazard you might say for a female so utterly dependent on a rogue like Frank.
The sum of all these disparate parts is an absorbing story of interdependence, and the fascinations and dangers of charisma and a gift that may or may not exist, but which both enchances and destroys the lives of two of them and ends in desolation for the third.
The acting and directing (Lyndsay Turner) is all round impeccable. The staging by Es Devlin changes completely for each monologue, including the floor – from plain wood for Frank to lino for Grace to carpet for Teddy. Inbetween scenes a curtain of rain falls, rather unnecessarily I felt.
That quibble aside, it is the nearest thing to a perfect show you’re likely to see anywhere. To quote another play by another playwright – it is the Real Thing. Get a ticket if you possibly can. (Nothing, even at the Donmar, is impossible.)
Faith Healer runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 20 August. ww.donmarwarehouse.com