IN 1991, I did an interview for a regional newspaper in County Cork. The interviewer’s final question was “what would be your dream play to direct?” I answered, without hesitation, Brian Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come!
Strangely enough, the reason I answered the question easily and quickly was that I had been to see a superb production of the play at the Cork Opera House that same year.
When Pat Talbot rang to ask me to direct a production of the play at the Cork Opera House, I genuinely thought he might have come across an old copy of the interview and was having a laugh at my expense. In the intervening years the chances of directing a production of that size - it has a cast of 14 - was and is considered unviable. I couldn’t believe it when he said he wasn’t joking.
Covid restrictions have been hard on many sectors of the business community but those of us working in theatre feel particularly aggrieved by the restrictions on the capacity of theatre venues.
To be ‘given permission’ to resume our theatre work after 18 months of inactivity is a welcome relief.
I am under no illusion that there are people who have had a far more stressful and difficult journey through the pandemic than those of us working in theatre. Doctors, nurses and the many people in the retail sector who had no choice but to work in the community throughout the pandemic, many putting their own health at risk, have earned all our gratitude and respect.
I suppose there is a sense for many of us in the theatre industry, actors, writers, directors and designers that the pandemic has taught us never to take our work for granted.
The joy of writing and developing a new script or production in a room full of creative minds and then being able to present that work to an audience will never again be underestimated.
Over the next month the cast and crew of Philadelphia Here I Come! will work towards presenting Brian Friel’s masterpiece to a new generation, who, like ours, might take it to their hearts. That possibility, and the opportunity to once again practice our craft, is what makes the return to the rehearsal room so exciting.
Geoff Gould is founder and Artistic Director of Blood in the Alley Theatre Company and the West Cork Fit-up Festival. He ran the Everyman back in the late 90s and subsequently studied Directing in LAMDA. He’s from North Cork originally and is now based in Ballydehob. Mike McSweeney took some pics the other day (we were fortunate enough to land front page with a group shot yesterday) but I know there were some of Geoff too so might be in your system. Jean Back in the Director’s Chair.
Philadelphia, Here I Come! premiered in 1964 and subsequently transferred to Broadway where it received numerous Tony Award nominations. It is regarded as Friel’s first masterpiece. He would go on to write such legendary titles as Translations, Dancing at Lughnasa and Faith Healer.
Disillusioned with his dreary existence in suffocating 1960s Ireland, young Gar O’Donnell decides to emigrate to America and live with his Aunt Lizzy in Philadelphia. Over the course of his final day and night Gar wrestles with the wrenching pain of leaving while wondering if he can completely re-invent himself in America.
Patrick Talbot Productions is delighted to announce that Philadelphia, Here I Come!, will be the first major dramatic presentation for live audiences in Cork since the easing of restrictions. It will be at the Cork Opera House from Tuesday, October 5th to Saturday, October 16th.
Starring Alex Murphy (Conor in The Young Offenders), Abbey and Druid Theatre regular, Catherine Walsh, Seamus O’Rourke, Fionula Linehan, and Michael Sands.
Producer, Patrick Talbot said: “It is exhilarating to get back into full production after such a lengthy period of nothing. To do so with a Brian Friel play is a privilege. I would like to thank Minister Catherine Martin, and the Department of Culture, for the financial support to enable this production to happen through the Live Performance Support Scheme.
Eibhlín Gleeson, Chief Executive of the Cork Opera House said: “We are delighted to host Patrick Talbot Productions with Philadelphia, Here I Come! in October.
"At a very difficult time for the arts, it’s wonderful to be in a position to welcome a local production onto our stage. We look forward to once again welcome the people of Cork, and beyond, into our theatre.”
The production will be directed by Geoff Gould. Set Design is by Sabine Dargent, costume design by Liv Monaghan, lighting by Paul Denby and sound by Cormac O’Connor.
Philadelphia, Here I Come! runs at Cork Opera House from October 5 to October 16.
Tickets €27/€22 Concession are on sale now via www.corkoperahouse.ie / 021 4270022