Alexander Zeldin’s latest play; Faith, Hope and Charity is about fighting to stay alive and visible in a society that doesn’t want you to exist at all. It follows a group of vulnerable adults who drop in at a run-down grim community hall to have hot lunches and coffee mornings provided by the very charitable Hazel (Cecilia Noble). They also take part in a choir led by newest volunteer, Mason (Nick Holder).
It is clear to see that both writer and actors have done a lot of research to engage an audience throughout this entertaining slow burner
We meet characters who we would like to engage with but are probably too ill-prepared for or impatient to do so. Therefore, it’s only fair that their stories are played out realistically and almost entirely using the naturalism convention. The actors and direction rightfully allowed every moment to breathe as they set up, prepare food, eat, and tidy up. It is enviable how each task is performed on stage with ease and without fear of error or judgement. As mundane as these activities are to observe, it is justified once we realise that the characters regard them as a sacred retreat from their varying degrees of challenges.
The writing and acting is very articulate, and it is clear to see that both writer and actors have done a lot of research to engage an audience throughout this entertaining slow burner. As a child of an immigrant, I particularly appreciate the detailed interactions between mother and daughter, Tharwa (Hind Swareldahab) and Tala where the mother always speaks to her daughter in their home language and the daughter only responds in English.
There are some moments of elevated tensions that jolts the audience out of the hypnotic effect of performing in real-time. For instance, the elderly Bernard (Alan Williams) and young Anthony (Corey Peterson) seem to have an unknown intolerance towards each other escalating to the latter bellowing at the former to “Feel the rage of my youth!”. Likewise, Susan Lynch’s character brings much needed tension to the play with her desperate fight to regain custody of her youngest child, Faith.
Noble’s matriarchal role provides strong stability while Holder’s hopeful character brings humour.
The house lights remain on during the show to reach out and plead with the audience not to squirm quietly in comfortable darkness.
From the dirty walls, to a polite scruffy note placed above the sink, and from old pictures on notice boards to the obligatory corner where random and hazardous looking items are dumped; Natasha Jenkins’ set has been meticulously created to transform The Dorfman into that recognisable community hall that we have all stepped in at some point in our lives. Even the chairs in the first few rows in the theatre resemble those that you would find in a community hall as if we have been invited to see a no-frills “let’s just cheer the community up” play.
The house lights remain on during the show to reach out and plead with the audience not to squirm quietly in comfortable darkness. Cast members frequently occupy seats in the audience, deliberately merging the social economic lines between ‘them’ and ‘us’. At times I forgot that they are there until they speak up. It’s a reminder of how each of us are always near someone in need, be it greater or lesser.