Review - Faith, Hope and Charity at the National Theatre, Dorfman

Faith, Hope and Charity
Our critics rating: 
Date: 
Thursday, 19 September, 2019
Review by: 

Sometimes the biggest moments in theatre reside in the smallest of gestures. Faith, Hope & Charity is a mosaic of fleeting glances and unexpressed emotions, sudden rages and brutal revelations - in short, the minutiae of life as reflected here in a raw, frequently surprising and revealing portrait of an underprivileged community who come to a run-down day centre - mostly for the daily hot cooked meal, and some to sing afterwards in a local community choir.

Not an awful lot happens in the course of Alexander Zeldin's play, nor do we find out much about the ten characters that populate this place, beyond their attendance here. But there's a slow accumulation of observant detail and emotion that seeps through, gradually making us come to know them - and feel for them - as they interact with each other and find a shared humanity by coming together to eat and sing.

As this simple but eloquent series of scenes set on different (but mostly rainy and inevitably grainy) days in the life of the centre plays out, we are drawn into their bleak yet often spiritually generous world. This is a community that looks out for and after each other, with the best currency in the world: kindness.

That's epitomised by the wonderful Cecilia Noble, as the mother figure who runs the centre and finds herself faced with dealing with the attendant crises of her visitors, from a mother who has had her young daughter taken into foster care (played with a sense of shattering desperation by Susan Lynch) to an ex-con who now devotes himself to leading the choir (the broodingly brilliant Nick Holder).  There's a lot that requires the spectator to fill in the silences - of information and plot - but this is a painful, profound portrait of people in despair that is worth investing in.

It is staged with rigorous precision by the writer himself, who orchestrates the movement with a sense of deliberation that becomes shattering in its intensity. Under the relentless gloom of Marc Williams's strip-neon lighting, there's a vast chasm of suppressed feeling and desires that erupts with sparks of danger as well as moments of real tenderness.

Faith, Hope & Charity is at the National Theatre until 12th October. 

Photo by Sarah Lee

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