Southwark Playhouse have chosen the Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh as their opening production in their splendid new location at the Elephant. Apart from the location being appropriate it was not a good choice. This is an extraordinary play based on the scenario of a father and two sons exiled from Ireland who barricade themselves in a squalid flat in the Elephant and Castle district who cut themselves off from the outside world almost completely.
They spend their time under the direction of the father, Dinny, in ever more extraordinary and surreal ways their recollection or imagined recollection of their final days in Cork. Only one of the sons, Sean, is allowed to leave the flat to obtain basic provisions. One day he returns home with the wrong shopping bag. Soon thereafter the girl from the checkout at Tesco’s turns up with the correct shopping bag, motivated partly by altruism, but partly by an inexplicable crush on Sean. Her arrival into this extraordinary family setting is disruptive both for the family and for her as they attempt to drag her into their extravagant playacting.
The play is extremely frenetic as the father and sons act out their ever more extraordinary dramatisations of their time in Ireland in an attempt to win the trophy awarded by Dinny. It makes great demands of the actors who rose to the challenge splendidly. Dan Skinner as Dinny, Emmet Byrne as Sean and Kiilian Coyle as Blake all gave extremely energetic performances changing between characters helped by a succession of wigs and imaginative direction by Nick Allpress. Rachelle Diedericks provided a contrasting portrait of innocence and naivete as the girl from Tesco’s, whose initial bewilderment at the antics of the family turn to terror as they effectively kidnap her. In spite of its title this play is really about abuse, coercive control and paranoia. It was hardly surprising that the audience found little to laugh at.
The setting on three sides of the large oblong stage in the playing area well depicted the sordid flat with a rickety bunkbed, sparse dilapidated furniture and a small cooking area. The use of metal arches to depict the different rooms worked well.
The problem with this play is that there is not enough narrative to support two hours of drama. The playacting scenes whilst initially fascinating and bewildering became tedious with repetition and reduced the impact of the tragic ending.
Playing until 18th March, https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/productions/the-walworth-farce/
Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd
Reviewed: 24th February 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★