The Walworth Farce

The Walworth Farce leads the audience on a darkly funny and deeply disturbing journey through domestic violence

Review by Ben Judge | 10 Aug 2007

Exploring the banal insanity and paranoia of an exiled Irish immigrant and its effect upon his family, Edna Walshe's The Walworth Farce is one of the theatrical highlights at this year's Fringe. There can be few productions which capture so perfectly the continual, habitual fear and dread of living under a violent father.

Set in a council flat on the Walworth Road in London, brothers Sean and Blake are forced daily to re-enact their father Dinny's fictional flight from Ireland. Every day, upon Sean's return from Tesco with new props, the boys play a whole host of characters from their old lives back in Ireland as a part of Dinny's propagandist attempts to prevent them running off "to the dangerous outside." For every mistake they make with their father's script or the play's sequence, they receive a harsh and brutal beating. Any challenges they make to the authenticity of the events are repayed with death threats at the end of a kitchen knife. The play leads the audience on a darkly funny and deeply disturbing journey through the closed door which conceals the domestic violence and intimidation so rarely witnessed by those on the outside. 

Underlying the whole play is a fantastically clever metaphorical subplot: The Walworth Farce is a damning critique of the self-perception people have of their homeland and its continuing proliferation among the generations. It criticises the unrelentless promotion of an untrue history, an exagerated and glorified legend, and the way in which acceptance of it is beaten into the young. The political importance of this piece of theatre extends beyond the literal exploration of domestic violence and gives the play quite spectacular depth.

All acting prizes given out this month should be reserved for Denis Conway. His star turn as Dinny, the father, perfectly captures the boys' unreadable, unpredictable, violent tormentor with such terrifying accuracy that The Walworth Farce often becomes genuinely uncomfortable viewing. Garrett Lombard also gives a wonderful performance of great nuance and subtlety as he takes on a character - the eldest son Blake - almost as insane and unpredictable as Conway's. The pair are exhilarating to watch.

Mikel Murphy's direction is never anything less than expert and the production thunders along at such pace that the two hours pass at bewildering speed. Do not delay in booking tickets to see this, it is better than almost anything else in Edinburgh this August.