Art Seen: Friel Good Factor
Brid Brenna is Madge in a new production of Philadelphia Here I Come! by Brian Friel
I've worked with producer Noel Pearson before, playing Agnes in Dancing at Lughnasa in 1990.
This is only the second Friel play that I've done. There's a feeling of the plays having such a long life, and they're just such a privilege to play, particularly because the writing is so beautiful. Brian gives so much to his characters, such dignity and subtlety, and I've enjoyed both the women I've played, and enjoyed the depths behind what you actually see on the stage.
I also love the courage of these characters that Brian portrays and, indeed, this courage is kind of in an everyday way. It's 'living your life' kind of courage. They don't have spectacular lives, but they have a quiet beauty in the way they live. Things haven't worked in the way that they've wanted them to, but the way they face life, and what life has thrown up for them, is pretty dignified, and there's a beauty in that.
Madge is the mum that Gar never had, and both the characters I've played, Agnes and now Madge, have a tremendous capacity for love, and they will place that love wherever they find it. They want their lives to be different, but they do have this capacity for love. Madge meets the world with humour, and she has quite a lot of acuity in the way she looks at life and how she judges situations -- she's nobody's fool! I find her very rich, she's a very rich character.
I love the complex relationship between herself and Gar. She has never married, and there's a childishness to her, and she plays with Gar, and I enjoy the banter that they have. Her cheekiness is wonderful.
Working with Tom Vaughan Lawlor is terrific, he's beautiful to watch, and in rehearsals I've enjoyed watching his tremendous grace. He's got great humour and he seems to have absorbed the situation of a young man at that time.
Philadelphia has a large cast, but each character is so beautifully sketched -- everybody is given a full weight of character, and each character is so beautifully written. Everybody has a part to play in the whole picture. And there's a music to the language that's actually altogether natural, and it's wonderful to listen to. Brian's plays make you aware of language, the use of language, and how expressive you can be with not so many words!
Philadelphia, Here I Come! runs in the Gaiety Theatre 'til April 20th