The Walworth Farce is a dark and brutal black comedy and one of the most original plays youll see this year. Enda Walshs latest work, for Dublin theatre company Druid, contains all the elements of a typical farce; fast moving plot, dressing up, word-play and improbability, but underneath the hilarity a sinister force lurks.
Set in a greasy and yellow stained bedsit in the Walworth Road, South East London, it opens on a typical day for the three characters, Dinny, Sean and Blake. Dinny (Denis Conway) is a middle aged Irishman from Cork who lives with his two sons Sean (Tadhg Murphy) and Blake (Garrett Lombard) in a top floor flat of an old tower block. Its a day like any other and the family are performing Dinnys Play, and competing for the acting trophy.
A farce within a farce, Dinnys play is a family history, but as he aptly explains later, You wouldnt see such a thing on Walton Mountain. It tells the story of his last and most significant day in Cork and features his brother Paddy, wife Maureen and other characters from his previous life. Blake, in various womens outfits, plays the majority of the parts including his mother Maureen (a wizard in the kitchen), his aunt Vera ( a money-hungry, man-eating, meddling fox) and Eileen Cotter (a fancy woman) who is the well to do wife of one of Dinnys customers when he was a painter and decorator. Sean plays Dinnys idiot brother Paddy as well as Peter, Eileens brother. All of these multiple characters and costume changes add to the confusion throughout with the audience, like Sean and Blake, never quite sure whats going to happen next.
The play they perform, like the farce they inhabit, mixes dodgy wigs with family violence and desperation as various characters try to bump the others off in an attempt to retain the family inheritance.
Dinny punishes the boys violently when they dont perform their lines properly and it becomes clear that Blake and Sean are prisoners of both their father, their story and their terrible flat. Rather than a jaunty farce, like most family histories Dinnys play is in fact a fabricated version of real events, created to cover up the terrible real story of why he left Cork suddenly. Examining the importance of story telling and rituals, like many of the most illuminating family dramas, the central characters are trapped within their own roles, forced to act out the same mistakes again and again.
The farce turns nasty when the charming Hayley (Mercy Ojelade) turns up, doing a good deed by returning Seans shopping from Tesco (its the Tesco customer service training). Seen by Dinny and Blake as a threat to their perfect family drama, she becomes a prisoner as Dinnys true character emerges.
The cast is excellent and Walshs dialogue spotless, effortlessly moving the audience between laugh-out-loud moments to stunned silence. Director Mikel Murfi never drops the ball and this play about the lost and the lonely leaves a lasting impression.