Anthony Gooley’s Orphans, performed at The Old Fitz – my new profoundly favourite pub-theatre in the centre of Sydney – is a heart-warming thriller with a social index: the abuse and neglect of orphaned children that is still relevant today.
Walking up the stairs to the box theatre, the Orphans’ sinister and foreboding poster is glued all over the walls, with Danny Adcock’s hollow and probing eyes penetrating beyond the silhouettes of Aaron Glenane and Andrew Henry, following me eagerly.
I had no idea what I was in for.
Anthony Gooley, local actor and director, reinvented and adapted Lyle Kessler’s 1983 psychological thriller for the warmth and intimacy of the Old Fitz. Set in North Philadelphia, Orphans is a beautiful yet brutal display of the neglect that stemmed from this post-industrial revolution period, and the fight between rationalism and idealism reflected through the lives of the characters.
The story of two “dead end kids”, Philip and Treat, orphaned at an early age and living in a dilapidated house, and Harold, the mobster they hold for potential ransom, takes us through a rollercoaster of unexpected turns and emotions.
The cliché storyline is at times off-putting but the actors pull it together flawlessly taking the audience through a wide-ranging plethora of emotions, including empathy, and truly making their characters believable. The sound and lighting strongly supports the actors and helps to develop the atmosphere, with the reverberations of 1960s swing and jazz echoing through the appropriately darkly lit but mundane stage setting.
Gooley’s Orphans is a beautifully compelling, wrenching tearjerker but also a hilarious adaption of the 1983 film, gorgeously smothered with the macabre and heartfelt.
Orphans plays at The Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling Street (Corner Cathedral Street), Woolloomooloo until May 9. Tues-Sat 7.30pm, Sunday 5pm, Bookings: www.oldfitztheatre.com/orphans