Sinister peak behind closed doors
THE Walworth Farce by Irish playwright Enda Walsh throws us straight into a bizarre, daily ritual undertaken by three men — a bullying Irish father Dinny (Laurence Coy) and his dominated, grown-up sons Sean (Troy Harrison) and Blake (Robin Goldsworthy).
The play is set in a tiny, squalid apartment at the top of a tower block in London. The door is firmly bolted and the sons clearly have little idea about the outside world, although Sean goes to the local supermarket to buy the things needed for the tale.
Each day they re-enact the story about why they came to England years ago, leaving their Mammy in Cork. Dinny plays himself, Blake plays all the female characters, and Sean plays the men as they switch roles, swapping hideous costumes with cheap wigs and fake moustaches. They pop in and out of cupboards for their various entrances, cart cardboard coffins around, and serve biscuits and poisoned chicken. Only this day, Sean didn’t bring home the biscuits and chicken.
It’s oddly funny at first, but it soon becomes clear that beneath the naff amateur dramatics, there is something more sinister at play. And then the cheerful Hayley (Rachel Alexander) who works at the supermarket arrives with Sean’s shopping, and something suddenly twists.
In 2010, Ireland’s Druid Theatre brought the play to the Roslyn Packer Theatre but it didn’t quite sink its hooks into the audience. But this production by Workhorse Theatre Company in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre is gripping. The smaller space is exactly what the drama needs; it’s like you are in the claustrophobic flat with them and you feel the dramatic tension build viscerally.
Kim Hardwick directs a superb production on a brilliantly grotty set with vile carpet, cheap furniture and dirty costuming, designed by Isabel Hudson. With lighting by Martin Kinnane, you can feel the filth everywhere.
All the actors are superb. Coy dominates as the brutal father, Goldsworthy is a quiver of uncertainty as Blake, Alexander introduces a fresh innocence as Hayley, before terror sets in, and Harrison takes us through an enormous range of emotions from defiance to fear as Sean with his shaved pate.
The Walworth Farce is all about the stories we tell, and about how some people try to rewrite history — here taken to extremes. It is absurd, menacing, disturbing, sad and, at the end, terribly moving. Recommended.
A scene from The Walworth Farce.