How had I failed to hear of this play before?
Orphans is a great piece of drama, with fascinating characters and an intriguing storyline that twists, turns and keeps you constantly engaged. And it takes the audience through a rainbow of moods and emotions… sadness, humour, tension, warmth, fear and hope to name but a few.
Lyle Kessler’s play is set in the Eighties, in the Philadelphia home of brothers Treat and Phillip. Theirs is a strange relationship, uncomfortable to observe.
It becomes clear that younger brother Phillip, who appears to be autistic, never leaves the house, convinced he’s allergic to the outdoors. His older sibling, who puts food on the table by going out and stealing is, by turns, a protective, bullying and controlling presence.
The play’s first pivotal moment comes with the arrival of Harold, apparently a wealthy businessman and, as such, a robbery target for Treat.
But Harold is not all that he appears. Dynamics within the house begin to change and the brothers are forced to see themselves, each other, and the world around them, in a new light.
All three roles are challenging in different ways and all three actors impress in this staging by Jam Pot Theatre.
Jake Addley has an endearing sweetness as the trusting, open-hearted Phillip, Adam Foster as Treat convincingly conveys the vulnerability behind his character’s belligerence and Julian Hirst gives an energetic and nicely nuanced performance as Harold.
The story’s closing scene, in particular, requires highly skilled acting. It’s like watching an emotional high wire act, and the cast rises to the challenge with assured, compelling performances. Adam Foster as Treat has to negotiate a particularly demanding journey but is utterly believable.
Although the story is set in a confined space, with lots of dialogue, Gerri Farrell’s direction gives the action a sense of dynamism and a flowing, physical energy which holds the audience’s attention.
The play has some bleak, harrowing moments, but there’s plenty of laughter too and, ultimately, this is an uplifting tale of hope and redemption.
Orphans is being staged at the Waterloo East Theatre on Wednesday, May 30 and Thursday, May 31 and is well worth checking out. For more details and ticket information please click here