Review: A Profession of Faith

A struggle between faith and a futile bid for control in a cruel and chaotic world

A prodigious aptitude for medicine, a loving and beautiful wife, and a baby on the way—brilliant surgeon Dominic Ainsley seemingly has it all, but when tasked with the difficult treatment of Felicity Lyon, Ainsley is forced to confront the precarious reality of life that even his remarkable skills cannot remedy.

In this gripping study of a man’s intense and spiralling emotional decline as he grapples with his vulnerabilities, Jacinta Ngeh’s “A Profession of Faith” offers a poignant look at our attempts to reconcile our relationship with faith in a chaotic and cruel world. For all the marvels and capacities of modern science, medicine, as it becomes apparent to Dominic, reveals itself to be a profession not founded on control, but on faith.

Image credits: Eric Tan

Through its simple yet effective set, ‘A Profession of Faith’ simultaneously represents church, home and operating theatre, masterfully conveying how pervasive notions of faith and control extends into Dominic’s family life. This is complemented by a purposeful use of sound and lighting where surgical scenes in the backdrop of family life amplifies the existential crisis, manifested in Dominic’s work, bearing down on him.

The play’s strongest point is its acting, which masterfully brings to life a stellar cast of characters that inhabit the myriad of perspectives on faith—from the hopeful, embodied by Gabrielle Kurniawan’s Cathy, to the profoundly cynical Emily, played by Dominika Wiatrowska. Rob Monteiro leads the cast with a compelling take on a man struggling in existential crisis, and who flees to his profession in a desperate bid for control, while Isabelle Duffy-Cross’ naive and earnest Felicity offers a heartbreaking portrayal which forms the play’s emotional core.

Wiatrowska’s Emily, in particular, stands out. Beset with insecurities and consigned to inferiority, she begins as a foil to the seemingly perfect and in-control Dominic. A convergence is later observed as Dominic is forced to confront the fact that even he cannot save everybody, while Emily demonstrates surprising fortitude in her search for a cure for her daughter, even in her tragic position as a doctor who comprehends, yet cannot remedy, her daughter’s situation. The transformative dynamics in Ngeh’s play demonstrates the internal journeys her characters go through in their contemplation of faith.

Image credits: Eric Tan

As Kurniawan’s Cathy so poignantly puts it: “how can I pity you when your love fights on and on”—to have faith that sustains oneself in the darkest of times is most valuable, beyond the fantasy of control we desperately seek yet cannot hope to attain.

Ngeh’s play reveals that faith and control, manifested in science, are perhaps not as dichotomous as we are conventionally led to believe. To have faith is perhaps a fight for control in itself, and at times it is the only fight we can pursue in a world that takes and bestows with little care for fairness and the individual lives affected. Perhaps, as her play also discusses, we seek faith not as a remedy to the problems in life, but as a means of coping with our lack of control over inevitable tragedies. One needs to know when to let go. To have faith is concomitantly to fight and to surrender, as in surrendering, we fight in our hope that things will work out.

Image credit: Eric Tan

While medical practice may not be a field relatable to all of us, existential contemplations of faith and agency surely are. ‘A Profession of Faith’ offers a consideration of different brands of faith—in God, science, love, luck and in one’s ability and worth. ‘A Profession of Faith’ spurs us to consider the means through which we grapple with our lack of control and the sanctity of varying faith we consequently flee to.

Audiences are unlikely to find a solution to what faith they should pursue, but perhaps that is the value of this play—not that it prescribes a path to pursue, but that it spurs one to consider the many faiths we hold on to everyday. Perhaps as different faiths are pursued by different individuals, as God is to Cathy, and as Science is to Emily and Dominic, we each have our own paths to coming to terms with the unpredictable and frightening realities of life. Jacinta Ngeh’s ‘A Profession of Faith’ is a thought-provoking production that is sure to have its audiences pondering the varying professions of faith they practice.


A Profession of Faith is showing at the Corpus Playroom from 1st to 4th November at 9.30pm. Get your tickets here.

Feature image credits: Eric Tan

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