The Walworth Farce

This article is from 2007.

Another Corker of a play from the Disco Pigs man

Enda Walsh has a lot to thank the Edinburgh Fringe for. It was here in 1997 that the Traverse Theatre hosted a production of his play Disco Pigs. It wasn’t the first thing he’d written but, with its wild energy and hyper-real Cork dialect, it was the one that put him on the map. It also set in motion the career of Cillian Murphy, since seen in 28 Days Later, The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Batman Begins.

Walsh was back at the Traverse in 2001 with Bedbound, a dark two-hander about a murderously ambitious father and his polio stricken daughter. Now, with The Walworth Farce, he is ready to consolidate his position as theatre’s most vivid creator of worlds that are at once surreal and believable. Like the characters in the earlier plays, the all-male Irish family holed up in a council flat in South London are convinced their behaviour is rational. Yet, imprisoned by a fear of the outdoors and compelled by the tyrannical father to enact a multi-character farce over and over again, their situation is utterly bizarre.

‘I really fancied writing that play of Irishmen in London which everyone’s had a go at and which I hate,’ says Walsh, whose play is like a warped parody of Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark in which five Irish ex-pat brothers fill their Coventry home with aggression, hypocrisy and self-hatred. ‘The notion of Irish people doing farce, when we have no knowledge of farce in Ireland, just seemed right.’

Produced by Druid Theatre Company, last here in the International Festival with its ambitious JM Synge cycle, Walsh’s play is a slapstick comedy described by the Guardian as ‘disturbing, memorable and deeply moving’. ‘I hate farce as well,’ laughs Walsh. ‘But I knew there was something disabling, unemotional and devoid of any life or humanity in farce that I liked. It was a bit of a shock for me, so I sat down and learned how to write farce and to write within those constraints. I wanted to do a contemporary, brash play that’s really giving to an audience.’

Traverse, 228 1404, 5–26 Aug (not 6, 13, 20), times vary, £16 (£11). Previews 3 & 4 Aug, times vary, £11 (£5).

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