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George Costigan, Kirsty Stuart and Richard Standing talk all things Faith Healer, Brian Friel and living in Pitlochry! 

“In the end we’re part of the storytelling machinery of life. And stories are terribly, terribly important, really vital, like food. This is about as good as it gets. This is really, really preposterously high quality storytelling.”

George Costigan, Kirsty Stuart and Richard Standing will be familiar to many  through memorable performances in many TV shows, and from the stage and the big screen too; performances in such well-loved shows as Gentleman Jack, Line of Duty and Happy Valley, Coronation Street, Holby City, Silent Witness, Call The Midwife, Shetland and Outlander; huge movies like Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Calendar Girls and Shirley Valentine; as well as a wealth of wide-ranging stage experience from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Hamlet, Zinnie Harris’ recent, hotly-acclaimed reworking of John Webster’s The Duchess (Of Malfi),to Willy Russell’sBlood Brothers and Mamma Mia! to name just a few.

Ahead of opening this Thursday, 17 October, we caught up with the Faith Healer trio in a little downtime between rehearsals to get some insider information for our audiences:

Can you tell us what attract you to play the role of Teddy?

Richard: Not so much the role as the play. When I read the play I thought it was astonishing. And then you would do anything, I would have been a door in it! I do think if you read something sometimes, you get a sense as if it belongs to you, and there were lots of things about teddy that just resonated with me… emotionally.

The play is just magnificent I think – I’ve not read anything like it in years.

Can you tell us what attract you to play the role of Frank?

George: Part of me wants to go it’s a dead big part! But in the end we’re part of the storytelling machinery of life. And stories are terribly, terribly important, really vital, like food. This is about as good as it gets. This is really, really preposterously high quality storytelling. There was no beat between Elizabeth asking me if I wanted to do it, and me saying yes. It’s just a privilege to be involved in something as good as this… Somehow this here, it belongs more in Pitlochry somehow.

Richard: I think place is important. I did Mother Courage in Belfast and it’s the only place it made sense. It’s like whoow, it’s comedy, it’s now, it’s real, it’s frightening, it’s funny. I think that will be like this.

What do you think makes Brian Friel a great Playwright?

George: I don’t know what qualifies you to be a great playwright. I would say Translations is one of the greatest plays ever written. I have done Death Of A Salesman, and I have done Godot, it’s in that league, and I think, curiously, Faith Healer is better written.

Richard: I think it’s the fact that he captures something universally human. I’ve just been doing 400-year-old plays in verse quite a lot, and they share that. Even though they’re 100s of years apart, there’s something in the description of what it is to be a person: to live, to love, to face your own death, to laugh, to enjoy, that they both capture, which is why we always come back to it.

We’ll be doing these plays in 500 years’ time. Every single word and beat is chosen. And you can feel that when you’re trying to learn it: you put a ‘but’, instead of a ‘the’, or an ‘and’ instead of a ‘then’, it just doesn’t work. That’s what it is – it’s the craft of it. He must have been an incredible human being.

Can you tell us what attract you to play the role of Grace and the play?

Kirsty: I’m obviously massively intrigued by Grace, but I think I was attracted to the play first and foremost, and the story, and the spell of it, and the language of it, and the beauty of it all. And I think Grace plays a part in that, she’s very much a part of the patchwork of the play.

Why do people keep going back to Brian Friel?

Kirsty: He has an extraordinary knack of giving you everything you could possibly want from a text. And I think it’s humanity, and emotion, and it’s imagery. It’s in some ways like reading a novel and be able to go into that world and see it and smell it and picture it. And yet you’re also absolutely not off on some madcap adventure. You’re there and you’re with the characters and you get a sucker punch when they deliver the fatal lines. I’ve liked his work for a long time and did a couple of things back at drama school: Translations and Fathers And Sons and I just think he’s extraordinary and deeply moving without flapping it around in your face. It’s a real low-level, gut thing. There’s also humour in it.

Richard: It’s really funny and you’ll laugh.

George: Yeah it’s really funny and the songs are great!

Kirsty: When I do my tap-dance solo you’re going to love it.

George: And I’ve learnt to prat fall

Richard: And we get the whippet out and the white poodle, and the poodle’s getting the beer out… and you want to see that Whippet sword-fight – a sword fighting whippet. That’s worth the entry price alone!

Kirsty: No seriously, there are parts the audience will find funny.

What can people expect from coming to see the play?

Richard: I think enjoyment. In the truest sense. In the sense that – it sounds like a showreel – but it’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry. It made me do both. And Kirsty said something about being spellbound, and I think it is spellbinding. It’s quite simple, and accessible. It’s not pretentious – it’s just someone telling you stories. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry because they’re great stories.

George: It’s just rich. It’s like having a big Dundee Cake all to yourself. Proper grown up stuff.

Kirsty: It’s important not to think of it as being some sort of heavy play. I think the stories are told with an extraordinary lightness of touch. But they will get you.

Richard: There’s only so serious you can be about a dog that can play the bagpipes for example.

George: And the 120 pigeons are a sight!

Richard: Six to a box – 20 boxes… And you’ll be healed.. I guarantee. Because he’s fantastic!

George: You’ve never seen anything as good as this.

What moment are you most looking forward to the audience experiencing in the play?

Kirsty: That’s a tough question. I’m tempted to say the end. Because everything that goes before goes to that point. Once you go on the ride, the end will be extraordinary.

George: The only thing actors can ever hear is laughter. So there’s a cliché, you can’t hear a smile… but there’ll be something collective in this where I suspect there’ll be an extraordinary feeling of celebration between the three of us and the audience. And that I’m looking forward to every night.

Richard: For me I guess, there are a lot surprises which is what keeps you engaged with anything, you want to be surprised. It is surprising. It surprised me.

What do you feel about doing this in Pitlochry?

George: Pitlochry feels like one of those places where people come and go, right this’ll do. I’ll stop here.

Richard: How can I live here?!

George: I’m in a state of enchantment with a theatre that’s plonked in the middle of the woods. Yesterday I opened the window and Richard breathed deeply and said, “Pine, Heather”. It’s ridiculous! And normally, because theatre is mostly an urban thing, you don’t get that. This is like having a theatre in a Health Spa! I think it’s gorgeous. I’m very, very seduced by it.

Richard: I totally share that. There aren’t many places you can go out for an evening and it feels like a pilgrimage. It feels like an amazing place – there’s something about the setting… it’s filmic. I look out of the window in the morning and I look down the valley at a grand river and already you’re in a big story.

Kirsty: And this extraordinary time of year, when these views are just getting more and more extraordinary as the different trees go… just stunning.

Richard: The theatre’s got a big place in the town so it feels like a really significant thing in a really beautiful place. So yyeah, why wouldn’t you come here?!

George: The coffee bar’s full all the time, with so many people, so somehow this theatre has broken down that thing, whereby, the theatre is an extraordinary welcoming place. And as someone who works in theatres that’s important.

Richard: Yes, it’s special

Kirsty: Yes, somewhere for everybody.

Richard: I know there’s a big long season you do in the Summer and I’ve often thought, that’s a long time to be so long away from where you live. And then you get here and you go, “oh, how do you get to do that then!” Because there’s a lot of sanity here. It’s a very sane place. Trees and life and pace.