Ödön von Horváth's 1932 darkly comic play is a subtle yet powerful portrait of a young woman, and a whole society, valiantly struggling against the pettiness of the state in pre-war Europe. One of Horváth's 'folk plays' focusing on the ordinary lower middle classes at a time of worldwide recession, this is a timely first revival of Christopher Hampton's masterful translation for more than a decade, and is directed by rising German director Leonie Kubigsteltig (resident director on West End production of The Children's Hour.)
In Faith, Hope and Charity (subtitled: A Little Dance of Death in Five Acts), Elisabeth is a proudly independent woman trying to keep afloat as the depression hits, working as a lingerie saleswoman. When she is fined for selling without a valid permit, her debts mount. Drowning in bureaucracy, Elisabeth is driven to a desperate and absurd solution by attempting to secure a downpayment on her own corpse for future use for medical research. It seems for a time that Elisabeth's boundless optimism is about to be justified when someone takes her in and offers her stability and even love, but her past catches up with her in the end and the unstoppable machinery of the state exacts it revenge.
Faith, Hope and Charity offers a picture of a population driven to desperate straits in the desire for self-preservation, and though not overtly political, skewers the apparatus of the state with withering irony and asks enduring questions about society and the welfare state. The production has attracted a first rate cast that includes Paul Bhattacharjee, Helena Lymbery and Rebecca Oldfield, playing Elisabeth.
Horváth's reputation is second only to his contemporary, Brecht, in the canon of 20th century German theatre, and yet he is only relatively recently been recognised as a major dramatist outside the German speaking world. Christopher Hampton has translated a number of his works, including Tales from the Vienna Woods, Don Juan Comes Back from the War and Judgement Day (recently revived at the Almeida), as well as making Horváth the central, fictional character in his 1983 play Tales from Hollywood.