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The Walworth Farce (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: The Walworth Farce

Society: Southwark Playhouse

Venue: Southwark Playhouse. Dante Place, 80 Newington Butts, London SE11 4FL

Credits: By Enda Walsh. Presented by Southwark Playhouse

The Walworth Farce

3 stars

Photo: David Jensen

Enda Walsh’s plays are famously claustrophobic and in that sense The Walworth Farce (2006) is fairly typical. Three Irish ex-pat men, a father and two sons, confine themselves to their flat high above the Walworth Road where they act out a play repetitively, compulsively on a loop. They play a lot of parts – and the clue is in the name – there’s a lot of very funny, high speed shenanigans with wigs along with quasi Brechtian physical theatre nicely directed by Nicky Allpress.  But that doesn’t make it a comedy and the ending is anything but. In many ways it’s a play about loss – these people have no family or friends and they miss their homeland. It’s relentless, challenging and at the end one was grateful for its succinct 115-minute length..

Dan Skinner as Dinny, the oldest character on stage is suitably volatile in his pitiful attempts to control everyone else. Killian Coyle is marvellous as Blake, the brother who plays all the female parts and Emmet Byrne finds powerful pathos is Sean, the younger brother who like his father and sibling is seriously damaged.

But the actor who really pulled me up short is Rachelle Diedericks as Hayley, the girl who works in Tesco and turns up just before the end of the first act with a bag of forgotten shopping. Her loquacious, nervous normality highlights the madness of what she has stumbled on. Diedericks does a fine job of gradually escalating  Hayley’s disquiet and fear. Her face work, standing apart from the others, as Byrne delivers a long, telling speech is outstanding acting.

Anisha Fields’s set gives us the whole flat: kitchen, sitting room and bedroom in a lot of detail and opening into each other so that the action can thread through the entire space.  A word of praise/sympathy for stage managers Molly Tackaberry and Olivia Wolfenden too: there are a lot of quite complex props in this play on a pretty busy set.

This is the first play at Southwark Playhouse’s new theatre – just off the Elephant and Castle gyratory. For the moment they are calling it Southwark Playhouse Elephant to distinguish it from its existing venue now re-named Southwark Playhouse Borough. SP Elephant is very pleasant with two big bars, excellent loos, comfortable seating and a huge playing space with seating on three sides on two levels. And of course, because The Walworth Farce is actually set at Elephant and Castle it is an ideal choice.

First published by Sardines:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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