Tag Archives: Anisha Fields

The Walworth Farce

The Walworth Farce


Southwark Playhouse Elephant

THE WALWORTH FARCE at Southwark Playhouse Elephant


The Walworth Farce

“The play has many levels but is predominantly delivered on one strata of sensationalism.”


The opening moments of “The Walworth Farce” are silent and surreal. But our minds are clamouring with questions. Why, for instance, is the guy stage left dressed in just his Y-fronts and ironing a dress on a makeshift cardboard coffin? Why is the man, centre stage, polishing a silver cup, making guttural sounds, and flexing his muscles? Enter a third character, a shaved pathway running through the top of his head, unpacking a giant salami from a shopping bag. They all convene centre stage – the first man now in full drag – and appear to be enacting a funeral. They wander in and out of wardrobes. There is talk of a dead stallion landing on ‘Mammy’, killing her outright. One claims to be a brain surgeon. There is fury over the erroneous shopping bag (more, of which, later – it becomes pivotal to the action).

The pieces gradually come together to form some sort of blurred picture. But questions remain and the accessibility still lies beyond our grasp. Enda Walsh’s 2006 black comedy is an odd, although brave, choice to open the new branch of Southwark Playhouse. There is no doubt that the setting of Walsh’s grim farce was an underlying factor. The high rise flat in which the play’s characters are holed up towers above the chaos of the Elephant and Castle roundabout. But, like the apartment which can only be reached by the fifteen flights of stairs, this revival has the same level of inaccessibility.

The bizarre scenario is routine for Dinny (Dan Skinner), Sean (Emmet Byrne) and Blake (Killian Coyle). They have been re-enacting, every day for ten years now, the events that forced them to leave their family home in Cork for London. Dinny’s repressive, bullying father figure forces his two sons to re-imagine the events by forcing on them his own warped version of the facts. Sean vaguely remembers the reality, but Blake has no choice but to take his father’s word for it. Sean is allowed out of the flat once a day to go to Tesco, otherwise the boys are imprisoned, literally and emotionally. The multiple locks on the door of Anisha Fields’ impressively grimy set are one of many metaphors that smatter the action and the language. The play has many levels but is predominantly delivered on one strata of sensationalism.

The performances are undeniably impressive, whether grappling with the heightened dynamics of the family or with the technical intricacies of Nicky Allpress’ stylishly choreographed pacing of the narrative. Skinner, as Dinny, avoids the ridiculous by instilling fear, dressing his tyranny in the spurious claim to be protecting his sons. Killian Doyle, as well as portraying the susceptible younger brother Blake, dons various wigs to represent all the female characters from the childhood memories. Emmet Byrne plays the men in the play within the play, but comes into his own as Sean – afraid to challenge but eventually forced to do so with a horrific and tragic outcome.

The relentless replaying of scenes suffers from a lack of regard for audience appeal. Until the arrival of Hayley, the checkout girl from Tesco who has turned up with the correct shopping bag that Sean should have brought home. Rachelle Diedericks brings a crucial breath of fresh air and a much-needed human touch into the surrealism. Although events become even more sinister, it is more believable. Hayley’s initial bubbly attraction to Sean is quickly shattered and, amid the chaotic realisation, Diedericks’ subtle performance is the one to draw the only real concern or empathy we might feel.

“What are we if we are not our stories?” asks Dinny? But, then again, what are we if those stories are fake. Re-invented to suit our needs. To survive even. Beneath the cluttered allegories and ramshackle absurdism that is presented on stage, there is a poignant, desperate, potentially funny, and equally tragic, terrifying and sad tale to be told. The desire to dig deep and find it is a challenge. But one that is worth accepting.


Reviewed on 24th February 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by David Jensen



Previously reviewed at Southwark Playhouse venues:


Anyone Can Whistle | ★★★★ | April 2022
I Know I Know I Know | ★★★★ | April 2022
The Lion | ★★★ | May 2022
Evelyn | ★★★ | June 2022
Tasting Notes | ★★ | July 2022
Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | September 2022
The Prince | ★★★ | September 2022
Who’s Holiday! | ★★★ | December 2022
Hamlet | ★★★ | January 2023
Smoke | ★★ | February 2023

Click here to read all our latest reviews


Blackout Songs

Blackout Songs


Hampstead Theatre

BLACKOUT SONGS at the Hampstead Theatre



Blackout Songs

“the ending is strong enough that the audience’s slight loss of attention is whipped back into submission”


Alice and Charlie have both found themselves at their first AA meeting. Lingering by the coffee table, avoiding taking their seats, Alice persuades Charlie that he needs a drink for medicinal purposes, and off they run. This is the beginning of a tumultuous, toxic, hopelessly sincere love story. Or at least, that’s how one of them remembers it.

Scenes are presented as fact, later disputed or questioned, with no resolution; specific details and conversations repeat themselves in various parts of the story, and the audience experiences the desperate, failing attempt to recall things as they happened. It reminds me of Florian Zeller’s The Father, where we experience dementia first-hand, except in this case, neither witness is reliable, nor does it really matter. The fact is they love each other.

Anisha Fields’ design appears, at first, almost non-existent: stackable chairs line two sides of the stage, and that’s about it. It’s possible that’s just how the auditorium looked pre-rehearsals. After a while, though, despite their avoidance of AA, the chairs seem to suggest that the whole play is taking place at a meeting, someone trying to set the record straight, finally. Alice is dressed like Penny Lane from Almost Famous, in a fitted Afghan coat, large sunglasses, and a little slip dress. The comparison is perfect: Alice has performed as herself for so long she’s become the performance, and what appears false initially is actually just who she is now. She seems so ridiculous on first meeting that I’m worried Rebecca Humphries just isn’t very good, or the script has let her down. But the opposite is true: her façade is ridiculous, but her insecurities bubble just under the surface.

Alex Austin’s Charlie is scrappy and dopey and his near lack of costume- baggy top and jeans- reflects that. He’s the antithesis of Alice, always himself, always honest about how he feels. Austin appears as a nervous puppy, so ready to be loved, and it’s completely endearing and, ultimately, heart breaking.

Sound designer Holly Khan and lighting designer Christopher Nairne do a lot of the heavy lifting: masses of reverb when they’re in a church, a thudding heartbeat timed so perfectly with the on-stage tension, you can’t recall when it started; sickly florescent tubes double as unflattering lighting at the AA meeting, and artful strobes, denoting the strange experience of time, and the eponymous blackouts.

There is no dead space in this script, but writer Joe White does have a problem on his hands. Because despite the fact that there are no scenes to cut, it’s too long. Ultimately it doesn’t matter; the ending is strong enough that the audience’s slight loss of attention is whipped back into submission. But the script is so nearly perfect, it’s a shame it’s not ever so slightly pacier.



Reviewed on 10th November 2022

by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Robert Day



Previously reviewed at this venue:


The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | August 2021
Night Mother | ★★★★ | October 2021
The Forest | ★★★ | February 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | April 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | May 2022
The Fellowship | ★★★ | June 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | October 2022



Click here to read all our latest reviews