Following the recent opening of Six Characters In Search Of An Author in the West End, which sees reality and fiction firmly blurred, Enda Walsh’s dark comedy The Walworth Farce is a tale of a man deliberately trying to blur those lines in his life by creating a play.
Dinny and his two sons live in a council flat on Elephant & Castle’s Walworth Road. A dingy retreat with only the framework of dividing walls remaining, it provides the stage for a daily production of Dinny’s play, set in his almost mythologised home of Cork. While no-one has gone to the trouble of decorating the house, a lighting rig has been cobbled together for the sake of illuminating the show.
While Dinny’s hectic tale of conflicting funerals held in the same house – one unaware of the other – is a high speed affair in which Dinny and family play all the characters, it hides a much darker secret, which is revealed piece by piece as Walsh’s play develops. Why is the family on the Walworth Road if Cork is such an idyll? Why does the outside world hold so many fears for them? Does it really matter that much if you don’t have a prop roast chicken?
It is hard to tell when Walsh’s characters are acting and when they are themselves. Even when they are not performing Dinny’s play, so much of their lives is caught up in his rituals that real emotion only stands out when it is of the most uncontrollable variety. A daily acting trophy gazes over proceedings with a watchful, knowing eye, inwardly smiling to itself.
The compact cast of four has the difficult task of acting as amateur performers while still illuminating the inner core of their characters. Denis Conway’s Dinny is a robust, red-faced, thousand-mile-an-hour heart attack waiting to happen, all fear and anxiety spilling out through his performance. The wild-eyed Tadhg Murphy, as younger brother Sean, has panic never far from his mind or face, and one foot still in reality.
When proud playwright Dinny makes a point of explaining that the cleverness of his play about money and murder in Cork is in the details, I get the feeling that Walsh would agree. The trophy, Dinny’s trainers, and even the flat in which the play is set, add together to paint a picture of a man haunted by his past and a family that will always suffer because of it. All their world really is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.