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Hope in the face of austerity
‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ is both written and directed by Alexander Zeldin, his third NT play, which like its predecessors ‘Beyond Caring’ and ‘Love’ tackles the heartbreaking bitter truth of the effects of austerity and brutal government cuts on the lives of the most vulnerable. The series provides a sombre reminder of unvarnished facts and statistics, one of which is that local councils have had a 77% decrease in government funding in the last four years.
The National’s Dorfman Theatre is transformed by Natasha Jenkin’s suitably dreary and realistic set, which depicts a crumbling community hall that has birds nesting in its attic and leaky ceilings. The stark strip lighting and being seated on metal folding chairs, filter through the audience, adding to the bleak atmosphere. This naturalist piece, which is based on real lives through a research-based workshop process, lures you into the worlds of its visitors who trickle in out of the rain for shelter, food, warmth and companionship.
The kind-hearted Hazel (brilliantly portrayed by Cecilia Noble) brims with compassion and stoic generosity, she welcomes the eclectic mix of locals, both young and old into the warmth of her kitchen, busying herself making hot meals and providing a listening ear. There’s Karl (Dayo Koleosho) who quietly awaits his unseen care, the elderly and somewhat crabby Bernard, amusingly played by Alan Williams and an excellent Corey Peterson as the Anthony who provides a provocative element to the mix.
Mason (Nick Holder) is a born organiser, happily putting out tables and lending a helping hand wherever’s needed, he has taken over the running of the choir whilst Pete is off sick, much to Hazel’s initial dismay, as Pete is perfect in her eyes. Holder’s performance is an absolute joy; he is burly and sanguine and brings with him a perfect touch of warmth and humour.
In fact, the whole cast is absolutely superb and each character shows tremendous depth, what unfolds is a wonderful display of human intercourse. Susan Lynch plays edgy single mother Beth with exceptionally fine intensity. Lynch portrays a remarkably powerful picture of an anguished woman, who along with her 16-year-old son Marc is desperately trying to fight the care system to stop her four-year-old daughter Faith going into permanent care. A youthful Bobby Stallwood (who was also in ‘Love’) as Marc gives a particularly truthful and touching performance.
It’s painful watching for the audience, the majority of who are undoubtedly vastly better off than the characters depicted in Faith, Hope and Charity. However it is a bittersweet tale and there are moments of pure joy, especially moving were the choir rehearsals which are held by Mason, renditions of “You’ve Got the Music in You” and “Three Little Birds” are sheer theatre magic. There’s something deeply touching and hope-inspiring about watching a diverse group of people unite with song.
Zeldin’s tremendous production of Faith, Hope and Charity takes you on an unembellished emotional journey, tentative in parts, charged and uncomfortable viewing in others. It’s a significant reminder of the indomitability of the human spirit and the importance of small community-based projects, which provide compassion, friendship and support in the face of austerity and the failings of a broken system.
Faith,Hope and Charity is showing at the National’s Dorfman Theatre, London, until 12 October.
London SE1 9PX
For more about what else is on at the National Theatre, check our Autumn 2019 preview
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