Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

Philadelphia, Here I Come!

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Written by  Brian Friel
First performance  28 September 1964
Composer  Michael Bruce
Original language  English
Playwright  Brian Friel
Place premiered  Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
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Date premiered  September 28, 1964 (1964-09-28)
Characters  Gar (Private), Gar (Public), S.B. O'Donnell
Similar  Brian Friel plays, Other plays

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Philadelphia, Here I Come! is a 1964 play by Irish dramatist Brian Friel. Set in the fictional town of Ballybeg, County Donegal, the play launched Friel onto the international stage.


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Philadelphia, Here I Come! centres around Gareth (Gar) O'Donnell's move to America, specifically Philadelphia. The play takes place on the night before and morning of Gar's departure to America. Gar is portrayed by two characters, Gar Public ("the Gar that people see, talk to, talk about") and Gar Private ("the unseen man, the man within, the conscience"). Gareth lives with his father, S. B. O'Donnell ("a responsible, respectable citizen") with whom he has never connected. Gar works for his father in his shop and their relationship is no different from that of Boss and Employee. Private often makes fun of S.B. calling him "Screwballs" and parodying his nightly routine as a fashion show.

Essentially, this play is a tragicomedy. It contains many comical scenes, especially the scene with Lizzy Sweeny, Gar's aunt, in which Gar decides to go to America. Despite the fact that Gar seems to have a relationship with his father no different from that of Boss and Employee, there are indications that there is love between them. In episode 1, Madge says "It must have been near daybreak when he (SB O'Donnell) got to sleep last night. I could hear the bed creaking." Other indications that SB is secretly devastated by his son's imminent departure, include his remembrance of Gar in a sailor suit proudly declaring he need not go to school, he'll work in his fathers shop - a memory of an event that may not have happened, and the scene when he pretends to read the paper, but fails to notice that it has been upside-down.

Gar's reasons for going to America (he wanted to prove to Aunt Lizzie that he was not "cold like the O'Donnells"), along with his secret love for his uncommunicative father, and their desperate final, pathetic attempts to communicate make this play quite tragic.

All of the action in this play takes place within a period of a few hours on the evening of Gar's departure, but it also includes flashbacks to Gar's relationship with local girl Kate Doogan, and the visit from his Aunt Lizzie.


In 2009, the play was performed through the Association of Regional Theatres Northern Ireland, directed by Adrian Dunbar and produced by Andrea Montgomery.

Second Age Theatre Company staged the play in 2007, directed by Alan Stanford. This production toured the country, stopping off at Donegal, Ennis, Dublin and Cork as well as New York, Texas and California in the USA. Second Age will present Dancing at Lughnasa in September 2010 at the Helix Theatre, Dublin. The play has been staged in Donmar Warehouse Theatre in London in 2012.

Noel Pearson recently produced an acclaimed revival of the play at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre.

The play, like Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa, is on the syllabus for English Higher Level and Ordinary Level for the Irish Leaving Certificate examinations, as well as the English A1 course of the International Baccalaureate.


Below is a list of the characters from the play Philadelphia, Here I Come! along with a cast list from when it was first performed, at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, on September 28, 1964.

  • Public Gareth (Gar) O'Donnell - Patrick Bedford
  • Private Gareth (Gar) O'Donnell - Donal Donnelly
  • S.B. "Screwballs" O'Donnell - Eamonn Kelly
  • Madge Mulhern - Mairín D. O'Sullivan
  • Kate Doogan (later Kate King) - Máire Hastings
  • Senator Doogan - Cecil Barror
  • Con Sweeney - Tom Irwin
  • Ben Burton - Michael Mara
  • Ned - Eamon Morrissey
  • Tom - Brendan O'Sullivan
  • Joe - Emmet Bergin
  • Canon Mick O'Byrne - Alex McDonald
  • Film

    The play was adapted for a film released in Ireland in 1970. The adaptation was produced and directed by John Quested and stars Siobhan McKenna, Donal McCann, and Des Cave. Although it was apparently never released to theaters in the US, it is part of the American Film Theatre series of films, and was released to DVD in 2003 along with the other thirteen films.


    Philadelphia, Here I Come! Wikipedia