Stage

Vere (Faith) (Opera House, Sydney)

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What do the critics think of Vere (Faith)? We review the reviews.
[box]06 Nov – 07 Dec show times: Mon 6.30pm; Tues-Sat 8pm; Wed 1pm; Sat 2pm  Book tickets [/box]

The low-down

John Doyle tackles dementia, science and faith head-on in his black comedy. After Doyle impressed in 2008 with his first play, The Pig Iron People, he returns to Sydney Theatre Company with his tale of Vere (Paul Blackwell), an aging, but enthusiastic physicist, who is given a heartbreaking diagnosis. He struggles to reconcile his personal and professional lives, and is brought face-to-face with his own mortality. The play, a co-production between STC and the State Theatre Company of South Australia, first appeared at the Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide.

Our verdict

Vere (Faith) is a moving, funny, and poetic play, giving us Doyle’s vision of, and for, humanity. It’s his version of faith, and God.  READ OUR REVIEW

What the other critics say

Vere (Faith) has been warmly, if not ecstatically, received in both Adelaide and Sydney. The critics agree that the central character’s struggle is heart-wrenching, and that the subtleties of the science-religion debate are covered beautifully. But many have found the play a little too ambitious with the ground it covers (see Polly Simon’s Daily Telegraph review), and a little too clever; the constant references to science and scientists, have been a bit of a sticking point. The praise for Blackwell’s performance and Sarah Goodes’ direction has been consistent. Consensus rating: 7/10
“A comic rage against the dying of the light, John Doyle’s new play has its progressive heart and a science reading list pinned on its sleeve. Doyle elicits steady chuckles but the scene feels weighed down by his freewheeling erudition and need to footnote its copious references.” Jason Blake, Sydney Morning Herald
“Under the direction of Sarah Goodes we always return to Blackwell’s performance: the great sadness in the struggle of his failing brain, his aimless meander around the room. She finds private and quiet moments with the supporting cast, and it’s in the tender moments that Doyle’s script is strongest – a man deeply passionate about the world and the universe and the secrets it keeps, his son facing a long battle as his father’s mind shuts in on itself.” Jane Howard, The Guardian
“John Doyle’s new play about the confusion of a brilliant mind as it descends into the maelstrom of dementia has the pedal full throttle on comedy in search of pathos. The play sees that last day of clarity and understanding and then visits Vere, a month later, through the fractured glass of memory and intellect, incontinence and madness. It’s a bit of a muddle, as you might expect, but the muddle has affected the production as much as what it aims to depict.” Tim Lloyd,  Adelaide Now
“John Doyle shoots for the stars but ends up in a muddle in his new play, Vere (Faith)In her director’s note, Sarah Goodes applauds its attempt to tackle the big ideas; as in her words, it “soars through the glorious range of the human brain’s capacity to imagine, create and discover”. Unfortunately, in trying to map the boundaries, Doyle seems to lose the thread, with the result that his play pinballs from one idea to another, from comedy to tragedy, without ever stopping to examine any in depth.” Polly Simons, Daily Telegraph
Vere (Faith) is too long by perhaps 20 minutes, but an exploration of the war between God and science, faith and intelligence, has never been more timely. And it’s fought here with panache and wicked charm: you will never again puzzle about particle physics but think only of The Beatles and be able to understand it perfectly. The company sparkles, with Paul Blackwell and Rebecca Massey rising above the rest to dazzle.” Diana Simmonds, Stage Noise

Verdict

Smart black comedy, with more than a little heart. Recommended.

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