Philadelphia, Here I Come

While most of the country was glued to a television screen last night watching the Olympic Ceremony C and I were enjoying our first experience of the Donmar Warehouse in Seven Dials. This wasn’t a deliberate boycott of the Ceremony, merely an innocent mistake caused by buying tickets a long time in advance and not realising the date coincided with one of London’s biggest events of 2012! Fail!

Thanks to the wonderful modern world of technology we have been able to watch the Ceremony on catch up. But that said, if I was going to miss it, I’m glad it was for this. It was a brilliant performance of Brian Friel’s 1964 play set in the fictional town of Ballybeg where Gar (both public and private) prepares himself the night before and the morning of his departure for America. Despite a few errors with the Irish accent (it varied from a Northern Irish, to an Irish proper and back again) the cast did well to depict this ‘tragicomedy’ and highlight the typical relationships between and hardships of the Irish in the early 60s.

For those who don’t know the story, Gar is portrayed by two characters, Gar Public (“the Gar that people see, talk to, talk about”) and Gar Private (“the unseen man, the man within, the conscience, the imagination”). Gareth lives with his father, a Local shopkeeper S.B. O’Donnell (“a responsible, respectable citizen”) with whom he has never had a good relationship. Gar works for his father in his shop and on the surface, their relationship is no different from that of Boss and Employee. Private often makes fun of S.B. calling him “Screwballs” and parodying his nightly routine as a fashion show. However as the play unfolds you see snippets of memories or feelings between the two often channeled through Madge the housekeeper rather than communicated directly between father and son.

It has been cleverly put together, depicting one night of their lives, the night before his departure and early into the morning using a few trips down memory lane to provide context and background of Gar’s Aunt, the reason he’s going to America and his past relationship with Katie Doogan.

The standout character for me was Gar Private, who really depicted his role incredibly well.


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