Faith Healer

Faith Healer is a play by Brian Friel about the life of the faith healer Francis Hardy as monologued through the shifting memories of Hardy, his wife, Grace, and stage manager, Teddy.

Flyer for 1981 Royal Court production

The play was voted as one of the 100 most significant plays of the 20th century in a poll conducted by Royal National Theatre[1][2] and has been named by The Independent as one of the "40 best plays of all time".[3]


The play consists of four parts, with a monologue making up each part. The monologues are given, in order, by Hardy himself; his wife, Grace; his manager, Teddy, and finally Hardy again.[4]

The monologues tell the story of Hardy, including an incident in a Welsh village in which he cures ten people. Teddy's monologue reveals that Grace dies by suicide, while Hardy ponders whether his gift is real or not. In his second monologue, it is suggested that he is killed near his home after being unable to heal a cripple. He says that he knows he will not be able to heal him and, going to face death, he feels a sense of homecoming. It is not made explicit however, that Hardy is actually killed; Friel leaves this to the reader's interpretation.[5]

Production historyEdit

Faith Healer received its first performance on 23 February 1979 in Boston in a production directed by José Quintero and starring James Mason, Clarissa Kaye and Donal Donnelly. The production then opened in New York City at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway[6] and closed after twenty performances.[7][8] The first production in Ireland was at the Abbey Theatre in August 1980, in a production by Joe Dowling starring Donal McCann, Kate Flynn and John Kavanagh.[9] The first London production was at the Royal Court Theatre in March 1981, directed by Christopher Fettes, with Patrick Magee, Helen Mirren and Stephen Lewis.

BBC Radio produced the play with Norman Rodway as Frank, June Tobin as Gracie and Warren Mitchell as Teddy. It was produced by Robert Cooper and broadcast on Radio 3 on 13 March 1980, with a repeat on 18 May 1980.

It was revived in 1983 at the Vineyard Theatre, directed by Dann Florek, with J. T. Walsh, Kathleen Chalfant and Martin Shakar.[10] In the same year, William Needles played the title role at the University of California, Irvine. Also in the cast were Mary Anne McGarry and Keith Fowler. The show was revived under the direction of Robert Cohen for a gala presentation to the UCI Theater Guild.

Joe Dowling returned to the play in 1992 at the Royal Court Theatre, London, his production again starring Donal McCann, joined by Sinéad Cusack and Ron Cook to huge acclaim. The critic Sarah Compton remarked that it was "a version so potent that I can look back on it now in vivid, overwhelming detail". Two years later, the production opened at the Long Wharf Theatre, with McCann and Cook. Cusack was sadly unavailable and Judy Geeson took over. The New York Times called the production "incandescent" and recommended it to "any connoisseur of theater".[1][11]

It was revived in London in 2001 by the Almeida Theatre, in a production by Jonathan Kent. The cast consisted of Ken Stott, Geraldine James and Ian McDiarmid. McDiarmid won the 2001 Critics' Circle Best Actor Award for this role.[12]

Jonathan Kent revived the play again for the Gate Theatre in Dublin early in 2006, this time with Ralph Fiennes, Ingrid Craigie and Ian McDiarmid.[13] This production opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre on 4 May 2006, with Cherry Jones as Grace. On Broadway it received four Tony Award nominations and won the Best Featured Actor in a Play, Ian McDiarmid.[14]

The Gate Theatre revived the play again in 2009, presenting the play at the Sydney Festival as part of a trio of works being performed to honour the eightieth birthday of Friel.[15] The other works were The Yalta Game and Afterplay. This production played at the Gate Theatre in Dublin in January 2010. In 2009, it was also staged by Eric Hill at the Unicorn Theatre as part of the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, with Colin Lane, Kiera Naughton and David Atkins to unanimous acclaim.

In October 2009, Joe Dowling directed the play yet again at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This time Dowling also took on the lead role of Frank Hardy himself.[16]

In February 2011, it was staged at Bristol Old Vic under the direction of associate director Simon Godwin.[17]

In June 2016, the play was revived at the Donmar Warehouse by director Lyndsey Turner, with the cast of Stephen Dillane, Gina McKee and Ron Cook, to exceptional reviews.[18]

On 22 October 2016, the play opened at Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney, Australia. Directed by Judy Davis with the cast of Colin Friels, Alison Whyte and Pip Miller. "This will go down as one of those nights when you feel that theatre has laid its hands on you."[19]

An Abbey Theatre production, directed by Joe Dowling and designed by John Lee Beatty, and starring Aidan Gillen as Frank Hardy had been planned for early 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19.[20] However, the Old Vic Theatre live streamed a five performance production featuring Michael Sheen as Frank Hardy, with David Threlfall and Indira Varma, in September 2020.[21]

Awards and nominationsEdit

2016 London revivalEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Critics’ Circle Theatre Award[22] Best Actor Stephen Dillane Won


  1. ^ Lister, David (18 October 1998). "'Waiting for Godot' voted best modern play in English". The Independent. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  2. ^ Archive webpage by the National Theatre of the NT2000 One Hundred Plays of the Century
  3. ^ Taylor, Paul; Williams, Holly (18 August 2019). "The 40 best plays of all time, from Our Country's Good to A Streetcar Named Desire". The Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  4. ^ "Faith Healer (Play) Plot & Characters". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Faith Healer". Mandy Actors. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Faith Healer," Playbill,
  7. ^ Brantley, Ben (5 May 2006). "Ralph Fiennes, Portraying the Gaunt Genius in 'Faith Healer'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 15 September 2022.
  8. ^ "Washington Afro-American - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Abbey Theatre". Abbey Theatre. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Faith Healer - Written by Brian Friel - Directed by Dann Florek". 21 February 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  11. ^ Brantley, Ben (26 April 1994). "Review/Theater: Faith Healer; From 3 Versions of a Shared Past, a Vision of Memory's Power". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  12. ^ Billington, Michael (30 November 2001). "Faith Healer, Almeida, London". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Faith Healer - Irish America". April 2006. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  14. ^ Brantley, Ben (5 May 2006). "Faith Healer - Review - Theater". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Gate Friel Edinburgh Festival Launch - Gate Theatre, Dublin, Ireland". Archived from the original on 15 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Dowling takes centre stage". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  17. ^ Gardner, Lyn (4 February 2011). "Faith Healer – review". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Faith Healer - Donmar Warehouse". Archived from the original on 15 September 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Faith Healer review: Charismatic Colin Friels leads all to believe in power of theatre". 27 October 2016.
  20. ^ "Faith Healer". Abbey Theatre. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  21. ^ "Old Vic: In Camera – Faith Healer". The Old Vic. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  22. ^ "2016 Results | Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". 31 January 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2020.


  • Friel, Brian, Faith Healer. London, Faber, 1980.
  • Billington, Michael, "Faith Healer", review of production at the Almeida Theatre, The Guardian, 30 November 2001.
  • Fricker, Karen, "Faith Healer", review of production at the Gate Theatre, The Guardian, 9 February 2006.
  • Brantley, Ben, "Ralph Fiennes, Portraying the Gaunt Genius in 'Faith Healer'", The New York Times, 5 May 2006.

Further readingEdit

  • Price, Graham (13 December 2014). "Memory, narration and spectrality in Brian Friel's Faith Healer and Frank McGuinness's Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme". Irish Studies Review. 23 (1): 33–47. doi:10.1080/09670882.2014.986930. S2CID 171002972.

External linksEdit