Tag Archives: Enda Walsh

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




Fairfield Halls & UK tour



Fairfield Halls, Croydon

Reviewed – 9th January 2020



“The lovelorn numbers may be predominantly in the minor keys, but the show is a major triumph”


It is a popular genre at the moment: the list is vast, and still growing, of movies turned into musical stage shows. They are greeted with varying degrees of commercial and critical success, but once in a while a show stands out from the crowd. “Once” is one of those shows and it is simultaneously easy and hard to see why. Dispensing with the razzamatazz and big budget bombast it quietly charms with a simplicity that aims straight for the heart.

Based on John Carney’s film of the same name it features the music and lyrics of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Carney and Hansard were both members of Irish band, The Frames, and the autobiographical slant (Hansard also spent many years busking on the streets of Dublin) lends an unforced authenticity to the evening. The unwavering quality of detail extends to all aspects of the production. From the outset Libby Watson’s brilliantly effective design draws us into a pub, somewhere in Dublin and somewhere in the last two decades of the twentieth century. It’s seemingly a lock-in and a ceilidh is in full swing. In a seamless shift from pre-show to show we find ourselves back out on the streets where Guy, a busker, stands alone with just a guitar and an emotionally charged, cracked voice. You’ve seen him, every hundred yards, along Grafton Street, in rain or shine, pouring more of his heart into his battered case than passers-by drop coins. A Czech woman (known simply as ‘Girl’) is captivated. She rescues him from his torpor and the ensuing ‘will-they-won’t-they’ romance is a delight. We have fallen in love with them way before we discover whether they will fall in love with each other.

Enda Walsh’s book shows him on top form, mixing quick-fire comic patois with pathos. Often in the same line. “Love is all very well but in the hands of people it turns to soup”. We laugh but we know it’s true. And the truth is there right up to the unsentimental unpredictability of the outcome. It is as human as you can get, matched by the performances. Daniel Healy’s ‘Guy’ is a beautifully studied portrayal of the wary, diffident troubadour who can really only belt out his true self in song. Emma Lucia beguiles as ‘Girl’; brutally honest and teasing yet vulnerable and tender. The equally magnificent supporting cast take on a variety of roles, in between which they pick up a variety of musical instruments to startling effect.

And this is where the show comes into the fore. The musicianship is faultless and under Peter Rowe’s stylised direction and Francesca Jaynes’ choreography the staging is beautifully crafted. The ensemble move as one with metronomic precision. Often such technical virtuosity can soften the emotional punch, but it is the music that ultimately leads us to the standing ovation this show deservedly receives. Rooted in Celtic folk and Irish culture it has a very contemporary feel, be it Indie-Folk, Indie-Rock, Folk-Rock or another combination. It wears its influences openly but there is no denying the heart-melting effect of the close harmonies and keening melodies. Lucia’s gorgeous solo rendition of ‘The Hill’, the ensemble, a Capella ‘Gold’, Healey’s tender, melancholic ‘Leave’ are but a few of the numbers that pave the way to the climactic, Oscar-winning ‘Falling Slowly’ which, once again, hits the jackpot.

‘Once’ is a musical that is anthemic and intimate. The lovelorn numbers may be predominantly in the minor keys, but the show is a major triumph.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Fairfield Halls until 11th January then UK tour continues


Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
Endless Second | ★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | November 2019
Frankenstein | ★★★ | Richmond Theatre | November 2019
Heroin(e) For Breakfast | ★★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | November 2019
High Fidelity | ★★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | November 2019
Wireless Operator | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | November 2019
42nd Street | ★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | December 2019
Bells And Spells | ★★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | December 2019
Teenage Dick | ★★★★ | Donmar Warehouse | December 2019
The Lying Kind | ★★★ | Ram Jam Records | December 2019
The Nativity Panto | ★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | December 2019


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