Watching Brendan, Dónal and Brian Gleeson in action in their performance of Enda Walsh’s ‘The Walworth Farce’ is a confusing, funny and disturbing experience. The play is kept alive for the duration of two hours thanks to Dónal’s noteworthy levels of energy and Brian’s thought provoking portrayal of a character living a nonsensical life out of fear, both of his father and his memories, and a deep-rooted loyalty to his brother.
The play is set in a small flat in London that uses crude props to give a non-existent audience the impression of grandeur. Dinny, the tyrannical father ably played by Gleeson senior, is living each day desperately trying to believe his own version of the events which caused him to leave Ireland, and has swept his sons into his time warp. They begin each day dressing for the roles they will play, in Blake’s (Dónal’s) case, a collection of female relatives, in Dinny’s a younger version of himself and in Seán’s (Brian’s), a medley of all the remaining adult male roles needed to complete the story. Both boys also play the roles of two young children, likely the boisterous characters their father feels they should have been. Seán is sent to Tesco every morning at ten o clock to buy the foods the family requires for a daily funeral reception, roast chicken, sliced white pan and pink wafers. It’s the fact that Seán leaves the house every morning that causes his father to doubt his loyalty, accusing him of ‘enjoying it.’ Seán is therefore the victim of his father’s fist quite early on. Dinny has raised the two boys to have a paralysing fear of the outside, they believe non family members cannot be trusted and that leaving would cause them to be dragged down by outside forces.
Each day ends with the awarding of a trophy to the best actor in the family. Dinny invariably wins the trophy every day despite his only having to play himself compared to the entire cast Blake and Seán play between them. The entire family hold onto the constructed narrative to guard their tenuous grip on sanity but there is a sense that Seán could move on from the life he has been psychologically trapped into. This belief is solidified by the arrival of Haley in the narrative. Seán talks about her to Blake in an effort to convince him that there could be good reason to leave the house, during a conversation in which Blake admits that it is his memories of his mother that keep him going. Haley’s arrival at the house in the second half of the play causes the story to begin to unravel because she cannot help but bring realism with her. Her predicament in arriving at a house where the same day is lived over and over again, where no one can leave causes Blake to make a devastating decision.
Showings run until the 8th of February, when one night will be in aid of St Francis Hospice.