Noel Pearson has renewed his association with the grand old man of Irish theatre, Brian Friel, and is producing the new production of Friel’s classic play of emigration, Philadelphia Here I Come! at the Gaiety Theatre.
At times the play seems to groan, under its slow exposition of senate, snobbery, schoolteacher, girl a class above us all, yobs of lads as feckless as they are fragile with limited futures and there’s a dodgy canon dispensing advice, as Gar O’Donnell prepares to leave the family nest, a cold unfeeling silent all-purpose shop, where his taciturn father cannot express any feeling of regret or love directly. Barry McGovern plays this father with great inner feeling and resignation. His is a masterpiece of performance. Bríd Brennan is excellent as the long suffering housekeeper who has learned to suppress any hopes or expectations.
This play was famous for using a devise of having two actors play the young man ready for the road. Ciaran O’Brien brought a scalding mix of fear and uncertainty to the role of Gar (Public) but while Tom Vaughan-Lawlor brought an India rubber comic style to Gar, (Private) his incessant mannerisms and gestures irritated me before the night was out.
Globe theatre Director Dominic Dromgoole settled for two broad a comedy touch to liven up a play groaning under 1960’s imagery and morality but at least he gave proper weight to the other characters as symbols of an era.
The set was impressive but dwarfed the cast with a front sky image that never changed or had the light on it to change particularly. But it was great to see a fourteen person cast outside of the National Theatre.