Almeida Places Faith in Friel to Close 2001Date: 21 September 2001
The Almeida Theatre in London rounds off a year of success and potential upheaval with Brian Friel's Faith Healer. Directed by Jonathan Kent, and starring Ken Stott, the production previews at the theatre’s temporary King's Cross home from 22 November 2001, before opening on 28 November.
Stott's co-stars will be actress Geraldine James, and the Almeida's joint artistic director Ian McDiarmid. Both McDiarmid and Kent recently resigned their leadership positions - effective from next summer prior to the company returning to its original north London base.
Friel's drama concerns the faith healer Frank Hardy, his wife Grace and his manager Teddy. The play uncovers conflicting accounts of the trio's life together, revealing Hardy to be both part conman and part genuine artist. Dark secrets begin to emerge and result in a grim conclusion in Hardy's homeland of Ireland. Friel turned to writing after teaching for many years in Derry, Northern Ireland, and Faith Healer was originally performed on Broadway in 1979.
Ken Stott (Frank Hardy) was in the original company of Yasmina Reza's Art at Wyndham's Theatre. Other stage highlights have seen Stott at the National Theatre in The Prince's Play and Broken Glass, plus The Misanthrope at The Young Vic. His film career has taken in Shallow Grave and Fever Pitch, alongside TV series such as The Vice and The Messiah.
The established actress Geraldine James (Grace) is highly regarded on stage and screen. Her theatre credits include Peter Hall's Cymbeline (National), Lysistrata (Old Vic), Death and the Maiden (Duke of York's) and Hedda Gabler (Royal Exchange). James' extensive film career has embraced Gandhi, The Tall Guy and The Luzhin Defense, and The Jewel in the Crown and Band of Gold for TV.
Ian McDiarmid (Teddy) has performed in several Almeida offerings, such as The Jew of Malta, The Doctor's Dilemma and The Government Inspector. As an Almeida director he has produced Scenes From An Execution, The Rehearsal and Siren Song. His film career has taken in Hillsborough, Gorky Park and Sleepy Hollow.
The recent announcement concerning Kent and McDiarmid came as something of a surprise to the theatre industry, given the duo's influence in establishing the Almeida as a vital force. Theories connecting their departure to the vacant Director's position at the National next summer are likely to persist until official word is offered to the contrary. It has long been felt that the National's role is too large a burden for any individual, and the honed unit of Kent and McDiarmid could yet be a viable solution.
From next January, Kent will direct Oliver Ford Davies for the Almeida in Shakespeare's King Lear. Paul Brown, responsible for the remarkable stage setting of Platonov, will provide the design. Olivier Award-winning veteran actor Ford Davies played Count Shabielski in Kent's acclaimed production of Ivanov at the Almeida, and also in Moscow.
- by Gareth Thompson