Published on July 16th, 2015 | by Lauren Donoghue0
Philadelphia is a slow starter. Two brothers, clearly estranged, are reunited in their mother’s dingy living room after her recent death. Clearly there are issues here that aren’t being discussed as they circle each other with tea and toast and bourbon biscuits, but it isn’t until after you are first introduced to the aforementioned mother that you really start to get a sense of what sinister things might be lurking in their past.
After that, well, things escalate quickly. And then don’t really de-escalate. What follows is about forty-five minutes of resentment and anger and raw emotion without really any kind of relief, and if I’m honest I found it difficult to stay invested. Obviously I wasn’t expecting a musical number but even the dark humour from the early part of the play gets a bit lost, and it could have benefited from a few more moments to break up the tension. Good narrative is made up of both light and shade, and this was mostly a truckload of shade.
The two brothers represent two complete opposite types of person that can grow out of the kind of upbringing that they had, and Phil Mardlin and Matt Ingarfield are both at home on their respective sides of the coin. Mardlin’s casual air of indifference and confidence as Alex, combined with Ingarfield’s physical portrayal of Josh who never seeems completely comfortable in his own skin really defines their relationship for the audience; it is obvious early on which of them is the older brother.
But the standout performance for me was Jo Phillimore as Carol, who was able to convey so much anger and pain and viciousness in so few scenes and with restricted movement, she was truly compelling to watch.
Philadelphia is full of guilt and shame and deep-rooted resentment and all that good family drama stuff, and there is a lot about it that is worth watching – the use of the Countdown theme tune to reset scene and really hammer home the sad monotony of what Josh’s life caring for his mother must be was an especially nice touch I thought – but I felt it lacked resolution and I came out feeling ever so slightly dissatisfied.