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FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY

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REVIEW OF NATIONAL THEATRE PRODUCTION  

Faith, Hope and Charity are cardinal virtues in Christianity, and they are also the title of Alexander Zeldin’s new play now showing at the Dorfman stage of the national Theatre in London. Religion does not enter the play at all but there is indeed faith in humanity. Hope in helping the poorest and charity with love and humility.

The play takes place in a soup kitchen where people go for a meal and company. There is also a choir where the ability to sing is optional.

The kitchen is run by Hazel (Cecilia Noble) and Mason (Nick Holder), a middle-aged man who volunteers to help and organize a choir. He is a former prisoner and knows what it means to be down and out.

The people who frequent the kitchen have a lot in common. They are poor, of course, but they also come from broken families, have emotional problems and are basically society’s forgotten. Tharwa (Hind Swareldahab) does not speak English and comes regularly with her little girl for some food. That is all we know about her and that is all we need to know.

Susan Lynch as Beth has a troubled teenaged son Marc (Bobby Smallwood) but has an even greater problem she has a small daughter and there is a court hearing about her custody. Beth is about to lose custody of her child. The moving story goes to the end of the play as Beth desperately searches for help and looks for support from Mason and Hazel.

There is Bernard (Alan Williams) whose committed the crime of getting old, being forgetful and poor. We get a few laughs from his conduct but there is nothing funny about his fate. He comes to eat and wants to sing but can’t remember any of the lyrics.

If the people who come for a meal have problems so does the institution itself. The developers are trying to evict Hazel and Mason and shut the whole thing down. Developers versus helping the socially left out. Guess who wins?

The key characters are Hazel and Mason. They come from broken homes and they are like the people for whom they cook and jolly along every day. I will pay special tribute to their acting because they manage to capture the spirit of the play. There is no preaching, no charity just plain decency. The level of acting by the entire cast is superb.

Not one of the visitors to the kitchen is judged in this beautifully modulated and marvelously acted play. It is a paean to basic humanity and decency. The faith of the title refers or should refer to Hazel and son’s faith in humanity. The hope is what they naturally engender in people who seem to have no hope. Charity? No, just plain decency in a frequently if not fundamentally indecent society.

Zeldin also directs this wonderful night at the theatre.

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Faith, Hope and Charity by Alexander Zeldin continues until October 12, 2019 at the Dorfman stage of the National Theatre, South Bank, London, England. www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.