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Review Roundup: The Old Vic's FAITH HEALER, with Michael Sheen, Indira Varma and More


The production is the third of the Old Vic: In Camera series.

Review Roundup: The Old Vic's FAITH HEALER, with Michael Sheen, Indira Varma and More

Just last week, The Old Vic continued its In Camera series with Faith Healer. The Fantastic Francis Hardy (Michael Sheen) travels the most remote corners of Wales, Scotland and Ireland attempting to heal those who wish to be healed. His wife Grace (Indira Varma) and manager Teddy (David Threlfall) complete this nomadic triptych, each with their own telling of the loss, love and struggle of life on the road with a seemingly predestined Faith Healer.

Faith Healer is the third in the Old Vic: In Camera live streamed performances, and was streamed live directly from the iconic Old Vic stage with the empty auditorium as a backdrop for five performances only.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Ben Brantley, New York Times: If I saw a recording of this production at some point in the future, I think I'd discover it wasn't quite the way I've described it here, after all. The singular blessing of live theater, which I have so cherished during my 27 years at The Times, is that it insists you learn to live with the memories of it, which are as mutable, perplexing and endlessly revealing as life itself.

Eleni Cashell, BroadwayWorld: Sheen commands attention right from the start with his powerful entrance, as he emerges from the darkness into the spotlight, walking past empty stall seats. He gets both the first and final monologues, and swings between the highest of highs and lowest of lows, going from victor to victim until he finally lands at acceptance. This could be an exhausting or unlikeable trait, but Sheen delivers it so magnificently and with such charm that you find yourself warming to Francis, despite his apparent flaws. It also makes the upcoming monologues even more hard-hitting, as you soon discover he's impacted the lives of his wife and manager more than he let on.

Chris Wiegand, The Guardian: Modestly billed as a "scratch" production, with sparing use of music and some occasionally jarring extreme closeups, the evening has three superb performances. As the ironically named Frank, Sheen gives as rich a delivery as you could wish of the mesmeric incantation of Welsh village names remembered from the trio's travels. His three-piece black suit is not as shabby as Friel's stage directions advise, but he looks dressed for a funeral, which brings its own resonance. Varma and Threlfall's costumes are in matching tones of moss and mud; Grace measures her state on an index of cigarettes smoked and whiskeys drunk while Teddy has the air of a sozzled radio host. He sings along to The Way You Look Tonight, feet still tapping after the music has died.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: Last time I watched a live-streamed 'in camera' production from the Old Vic - Three Kings, starring Andrew Scott - I gave it a standing ovation in my kitchen. This time round, despite the magnificence of Michael Sheen in one of the late, great Brian Friel's most mesmerising plays, I was tempted to sink to my knees at the end and pray for theatre's deliverance. The online occasion - delivered across four evenings - afforded a ringside view of high-definition acting.

David Cote, Observer: The acting, under Matthew Warchus's patient, unflinching direction, is uniformly superb, with Sheen allowed the most latitude for rhetorical and physical flourishes, his bushy, graying beard, greasy quarantine locks, and madman's eyes creating a mixture of homeless drifter and Old Testament prophet. Frank chants the names of hamlets from their journeys, his voice booming off the walls of the Old Vic. "Llangranog, Llangurig, Abergorlech, Abergynolwyn, Llandefeilog, Llanerchymedd..." We don't know these places, but as rolled around in Frank's mouth, they seems to summon spirits and occult forces.

Helen Shaw, Vulture: As a theatrical attempt, Faith Healer is ambitious and a little scary. Even after the season's earlier artistic successes with Lungs and Three Kings, there was no guarantee that the magic would work again. For one thing, it's a new production, whereas Lungs was a return engagement; for another, it relies on the chemistry of a multi-character work, where Three Kings was written for just Andrew Scott. Clearly the theater chose Friel's 1979 play for its structure: Built from four monologues, the three actors never have to appear onstage together - until they bow to piped-in applause. But could one of the "In Camera" "scratch" productions create any sense of interplay with a socially distant process? How would they rehearse? Would it be a whole, or just parts?

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