11 October, 2019

Tour in place for Pitlochry’s ‘Magnificent’ Production

Brian Friel’s tender masterpiece, Faith Healer, opening at Pitlochry Festival Theatre next week (17 Oct to 3 Nov) is to tour the Highlands and Islands, it has been announced.

Directed by award-winning Director, Elizabeth Newman, the show features three familiar faces from the world of Television, who are well into rehearsals now, and took time out to talk to us about their passion for the play.

Taking the central role of The Fantastic Francis Hardy, we asked George Costigan (Line of Duty, Shirley Valentine, Happy Valley) what attracted him to play, and the role of Frank. He told us:

“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.”

Richard Standing, (Coronation Street, Silent Witness, Casualty) playing Teddy, Frank’s born-into-show-business manager, explained:

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. He’s also really funny. He’ll make you laugh. The play is just magnificent I think – I’ve not read anything like it in years.”

Kirsty Stuart, (Call The Midwife, Shetland, Outlander) playing Frank’s wife Grace, comes to Pitlochry immediately from her triumph in the eponymous role of Zinnie Harris’ hotly-acclaimed reworking of The Duchess (of Malfi), playing alongside George at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow and Edinburgh Royal Lyceum. She described what drew her to Faith Healer:

“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… Brian Friel has an extraordinary knack of giving you everything you could possibly want from a text, and, I think, its humanity, and emotion, and its imagery. It is, in some ways, like reading a novel and being 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...”

We asked the cast what audiences can expect from coming to see the play:

“Enjoyment.” Richard said, “In the truest sense. In the sense that it’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry. It made me do both. And Kirsty has said about being spellbound. I think it’s quite 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 good stories. There’s a lot surprises. It surprised me!”

Joined by Kirsty: “Don’t 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. Once you go on the ride, the end will be extraordinary.”

George added: “It’s just rich. It’s like having a big Dundee Cake all to yourself! 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.”

Following the 2½ week run in Pitlochry, the Theatre takes the play on the road in partnership with Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, around the Highlands and Islands; to Carnegie Hall, Dornoch; Orkney Theatre Arts; Macphail Centre, Ullapool; back to Strathearn Artspace, Crieff; off to the Aros Centre, Skye and finally a three-day spell at Eden Court itself.

James Mackenzie-Blackman, Eden Court’s Chief Executive, told us:

“I am so thrilled to be collaborating with powerhouse, Elizabeth Newman, and the team at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, and presenting their production of Faith Healer, because we’re committed to taking work to communities across the highlands.”

Elizabeth Newman, Pitlochry’s Artistic Director, added:

“I cannot wait to share this brilliant play in Pitlochry and beyond. We are very fortunate that producing Faith Healer with Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, will finally give us an opportunity to connect with people across the Highlands and Islands. We look forward to venturing to some of the very venues in which Frank, Grace and Teddy would’ve spent their life visiting and performing.”

Described as a masterpiece of one of Ireland’s greatest playwrights, Brian Friel, (Dancing At Lughnasa, Translations) Faith Healer is a spellbinding, achingly tender, yet often funny and intensely human, exploration of love, belief and personal sacrifice.

Opening night is Thursday, 17 October, 7.30pm and it runs to Sunday, 3 November, followed by the tour of the Highlands and Islands in partnership with Eden Court, Inverness, 5-16 November.

To book your tickets, call the Box Office team on 01796 484626 or click here to book online.

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