Faith Healer at the Donmar Warehouse attracted a range of positive reviews, with five critics awarding five stars.
All praised what Mark Shenton (The Stage) called “Brian Friel’s haunting memory play”. Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) hailed a “lyrically written chamber-piece” and Michael Billington (Guardian) admired the way separate monologues “advance the narrative, explore shifting realities and reveal character”.
Fairly typically, Cavendish judged Lyndsey Turner’s “beautifully measured and nuanced” production “flawless”, admitting “you need to concentrate… and wait, patiently”. Henry Hitchings (ES) thought Turner “alert to its fascination with rhythms and rituals”. He joined general praise for Es Devlin’s “striking design” explaining: “A silvery curtain of rain whips down between scenes, suggests ghostliness and grief.” Shenton described “a stark platform” on which, “with the anchoring shadows of Bruno Poet’s lighting, all attention is simply on the raw naturalism of the acting”.
He saw “the poetic grace and feeling of Friel’s script… achingly inhabited in the spellbinding intensity of the narrators” and hailed Stephen Dillane’s “poetic and powerful” Frank. Cavendish enjoyed the actor’s “dryness, wit, and unsettling directness of gaze” and Hitchings admired “a performance of real potency” capturing the character’s “mix of vanity and self-doubt”.
Cavendish found Gina McKee “cool, collected, mesmerising” although “she brims with sadness”, Hitchings described “a carefully measured inner turbulence” and Shenton detected “keen intelligence” in a performance Billington found “unforgettable”.
Unanimous praise greeted Ron Cook in a role he first played in 1994. Billington felt he “plays Teddy magnificently…. perky” yet “incredibly moving”. Shenton reported him “providing the evening’s only laughs” and Cavendish found him “a joy to watch”, noting his “knocking back the beer as if to purge himself of pain”.
Among the majority impressed by the whole, Shenton hailed a “quietly but persuasively phenomenal” play which, Billington said, “more than ever… struck me as a masterpiece”. Cavendish, who found it “exceptional, spellbinding” thought “its longevity re-confirmed”, concluding: “This is something special.”