Theatre Blog

Review: Philadelphia, Here I Come! by Brian Friel

Written by  Garry Pope Tuesday, 09 February 2016
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On a crisp, clear Cambridge evening, as a college bell chimes seven, we sits amongst the sweetened aroma of pre-show red wine in the intimate Corpus Playroom theatre, anticipating its opening night of Brian Friel’s classic Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1964).

Gar (James McMullan) is twenty-five and bored with grafting for his father (Charlie Connor) in Ballybeg, Ireland. Luckily, tomorrow he flies to Philadelphia to work in a hotel and will leave it all behind. He just needs to battle through these final hours and say his goodbyes. But with his conscience nattering at him all night, will he board that plane in the morning?

An outstanding script by the late Friel. The use of Gar’s conscience, Private Gar (Ben Walsh), as a character works immediately and never feels gimmicky; such as the back and forth chat from the conscience saying everything Gar never can, and reminding him of all his past mistakes. Yet the conscience is not a devil perched on Gar’s shoulder; often it attempts to protect him, urging him to speak, or to keep quiet, or to think or do something else.

The production’s highlight is the superb acting by McMullan and Walsh. Both actors command the audience’s attention without demanding it. There’s no over the top amateur dramatics here; their performances are slick, measured and charming. McMullan has an actor’s face, it is always in the moment, reacting to everything said, making us experience every emotion. Walsh has a frenetic energy, zipping from thought to thought, using his limbs to demonstrate what’s happening inside Gar’s head.

I really enjoyed this play. It raced by in an hour and forty-five minutes; had me cackling with laughter, which is rare; and from the outset enticed me into the life of Gar. By the end I had to bite my lip to stop myself screaming at him to, “Go! Go! Please, just go!”

Philadelphia, Here I Come! plays at the Corpus Playroom, Cambridge from 9th February to 13th February 2016.

Read 2424 times Last modified on Tuesday, 08 March 2016

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