Philadelphia, Here I Come never loses its power. Particular when a revival features a cast working as fluidly and organically as that assembled by the Donmar.
Paul Reid (Gar in Public) and Rory Keenan (Gar in Private) in Philadelphia, Here I Come at the Donmar Warehouse, London Photo: Johan Persson
Friel’s narrative conceit of having Gar’s subconscious as some sort of blarney Greek chorus, saying the things that remain unsaid, remains such a powerful tool particularly when emphasised by the stiff silence of other characters, his father especially.
The pain of unspoken love between Gar and his father, SB O’Donnell (even his name is deeply impersonal) bleeds into the small auditorium - it is almost unbearable at points.
Paul Reid, as Gar in Public, and a brilliant characterisation by Rory Keenan as Gar in Private, perfectly synchronise their performances - emotionally as well as physically. Valerie Lilley’s Madge is an all-seeing keeper of the family and its secrets.
But this is such a strong ensemble that to pick out a few performances would be to do it an injustice. All are good.
Lyndsey Turner finds even more humour and poignancy in the script than that created by Friel. She allows the emotion of the performances to energise the production rather than over-power it. The scene in which Gar remembers his mother wraps the audience in its arms. And the evocation of the shattering of Gar’s happiest memory of his father, is gripping - Rob Howell’s set and Tim Lutkin’s lighting becoming a powerful narrative aid.
A great production.