The Walworth Farce

What could be more appropriate to mark the opening of the Southwark Playhouse Elephant than Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce. The state-of-the-art theatre’s minimalist industrial design is symbolic of the ongoing regeneration of this area and stands in stark contrast to the dreary council flat on the Walworth estate that provides the play’s setting. It illustrates how the area around the Elephant and Castle has changed, even though the vitality important housing blocks are still there.

A fast-paced and enormously entertaining production

The play within a play sits on a continuum from comedy to tragedy via absurdism and black comedy with the required nod to farce. As such, it has moments when the names of other writers or plays in the these genres come to mind. Whatever it might be reminiscent of it, this is, of course, uniquely Walsh. His concern with routines and ‘getting through the day’ are evident from the outset although he’s also said, ‘I don't like seeing everyday life on stage: it's boring. I like my plays to exist in an abstract, expressionistic world: the audience has to learn its rules and then connect with these characters who are, on the surface dreadful monsters', This combines with his fascination for characters ‘on the edge of madness, or have entered it.’ All of this and a good measure of Irish humour is to be found in The Walworth Farce along with some vigorous performances.

Dinny (Dan Skinner) left Cork and with his two sons Sean (Emmet Byrne) and Blake (Killian Coyle) and set up home in this grim apartment with multiple locks on the door, lest anyone with a score to settle should come knocking. It’s become his refuge and their prison. Here on a daily basis they perform a play that recounts the people and the past they have left behind. Only Sean ever leaves, in order to purchase the same items each day from the local Tesco’s. One day he messes up the routine when he leaves the supermarket with wrong bag, incurring Dinny’s wrath. Worse comes when Hayley (Rachelle Diedericks) on the checkout, whom Sean has engaged in conversation, turns up with his bag.

Skinner is every bit the entertainer as he acts out the play and directs his boys. They all assume multiple roles, both male and female, with wigs flying in all directions as they switch from one character to another. He also hints at the darker side of Dinny, the father who controls not just of the play but the lives of his sons and who will tolerate no criticism. Coyle, with his over-the-top characterisations and womanly costumes, shows the extent to which Blake is trapped in this setting, subservient and submissive to the whims of his father and with a life that consists only of giving a whole-hearted performance to please him and rise to his expectations. Byrne, in contrast, portrays the young man who has a daily glimpse of the outside world and whose mind is elsewhere. He goes through the motions of the play in a dead-pan manner, conforms and provides humour as a dullard, but ultimately his mind is elsewhere and he is merely biding his time. The surprise appearance of Hayley at the start of act two breathes a whole new dimension into the plot. She has no idea what she has walked into and that she is about to disrupt the day’s performance. Diedericks enters as though this were a normal family home. Her bubbly naivety as she chats about the mix-up over the shopping is hilarious, as Dinny looks on aghast at this unthinkable intrusion into his home and his play. Undeterred, its not long before he has a made her too a prisoner and member of the cast.

Director Nicky Allpress has created a fast-paced and enormously entertaining production that flows with energy around the three-roomed shabby set designed convincingly by Anisha Fields. Amongst all the nonsense, however, it is perhaps easy to miss the simmering dark undertones that will that bring The Walworth Farce to its devastatingly tragic ending and seems to come out of the blue.

This is an exciting opportunity to see Walsh's work on stage and celebrate the arrival of a new London theatre.

Reviews by Richard Beck

Alexandra Palace

Treason - the Musical

Hampstead Theatre

To Have And To Hold


Trueman and the Arsonists

The Space

Now Entering Ely, Nevada

Hackney Town Hall


Southwark Playhouse

Manic Street Creature


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Holed up in a flat on the Walworth Road, Sean and Blake diligently recite their father Dinny’s lines as they daily re-enact the moment they fled their home in Ireland. But today’s performance is going to be different: Dinny’s got a rage on because there’s a sausage and Ryvita in place of the chicken dinner, Sean’s head’s not been in it since he came back from Tescos, and the three men are about to receive an unexpected visitor…

Most Popular See More

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £46.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets