Review: Orphans at South Hill ParkBy Caroline Cook
May 18, 2012
When you take your seat in the theatre for Orphans it’s as if you are settling down in a living room in North Philadelphia.
Sitting just metres away from the sofas and bean bag cushions the audience gets an up-close view of the microcosm inside that dirty, tuna-can strewn apartment.
And it is that closeness which heightens every sense and emotion for the two hours, or two weeks, which take place inside the apartment.
Lyle Kessler's play opens a window into the lives of Treat and Phillip, two grown-up orphaned brothers who have been left alone after the death of their mother and abandonment of their father.
Treat, played by Adam Foster, is street-wise and edgy, stealing to put Hellmann’s mayonnaise on the table for Phillip, (Jake Addley) the child-like brother who never leaves the safety of his little world indoors.
The relationship between the brothers is captivating from the off, and Foster’s brooding, angry Treat is balanced well with the vulnerability of Phillip.
Addley is spot-on in his portrayal of Phillip, with his nervous twitches, his child-like simplicity and his moments of comedy which make you warm to him even more.
But when Treat brings home Harold, (Julian Hirst), with the intention of kidnapping him and charging a ransom, the world inside the apartment begins to implode.
From the moment Harold stumbles through the door, singing loudly in a brawling Chicago accent, you know everything is about to change.
And so the play begins to teeter between a sense of impending danger and something like hope - hope that life will change for the better for these orphans.
Hirst is wonderfully understated as Harold giving just enough to hint at his dangerous background but bringing a comfort and kindness to Treat and Phillip’s lives, which you cannot help but be suspicious of.
While Phillip welcomes him with open arms, Treat is more cautious and this where Foster really shines, as a furious, angry, dead-end kid, shouting curse words which explode in the small theatre space at South Hill Park.
Although part of its charm is the intimacy of the small theatre, the play could easily do well on a larger stage, with the story and actors drawing you in so much you feel as though you are peeping out of the wardrobe alongside Phillip, even in a bigger setting.
And it is feeling part of that world that makes the play so vivid and you makes reluctant to leave that North-Philadelphia apartment even after the final curtain has fallen.
- Orphans is at South Hill Park until Saturday. To book visit www.southhillpark.org.uk or call (01344) 484 123.