Shenanigans at Southwark Elephant
“How did you make the leap from painting and decorating to brain surgery?”
Blake as Vera to Dinny
As its first major production for the new theatre that is the Southwark Playhouse Elephant as Southwark Playhouse looks towards its new location at London Bridge, comes Enda Walsh’s 2006 absurdist play The Walworth Farce. The existing Southwark Playhouse in Newington Causeway will be known as Southwark Playhouse Borough. What the choice of play The Walworth Farce has in locality it lacks in credibility as Walsh’s play churns up the stories we tell ourselves and repeats them to incomprehension.
This family from Cork in Southern Ireland have come to live in a flat in Southwark along the Walworth Road in one of London’s poorest district skyscrapers of public housing. They are Dinny the father (Dan Skinner) and his two sons, Sean (Emmet Byrne) and Blake (Killian Coyle). When we first see him Blake is wearing a woman’s blouse and skirt and ironing his dress.
Dinny dictates that they should endlessly reenact the terrible events that brought them to London when they fled from Ireland. He and the two sons rehearse their muddled version of the past every day. With the obvious limited resources the actors are called on to change into various characters at the drop of a proverbial hat. The humour centres around the use of wigs so that the cast can put a wig on their hands or head pretending it to be a not seen character and have a conversation. This gets extremely confusing as it becomes very difficult to follow exactly who it is that is being spoken to and how they contribute to the story.
The first half of the play uses these devices for its humour, the audience were initially amused but by halfway the amusement had died down and was starting to be replaced by confusion. The second half has a more serious tone and the laughter almost gone. We learn that they do not leave the flat except that Sean goes out for essential supplies and props for the play. When he returns with a large salami and Ryvita instead of the usual roast chicken dinner, Dinny goes apoplectic.
The arrival at the door of Hayley (Rachelle Diedericks) who is the cashier from Tesco who has come to exchange the bag Sean left behind taking another one, yes with Ryvita and Salami in it. This disruption to his play brings Dinny to boiling point and Hayley is grabbed, gagged, tied up and thrown onto the bed.
Carnage follows and the bodies start to pile up like Jacobean tragedy. This is not a play meant to be taken literally but an allegory and if you can see what the Emperor is wearing, you will certainly get the allegory. And you’ll need a critic who gets it and finds it funny.
I wish Southwark Playhouse Elephant the very best and look forward to the musical Berlusconi, the next big production.
The Walworth Farce
Written by End Walsh
Directed by Nicky Allpress
Director: Nicky Allures
Designer: Anisha Fields
Lighting Designer: Lucía Sánchez Roldán
Sound Designer: Joseff Harris
Running Time: Two hours 15 minutes with an interval
Booking to 18th March 2023
Southwark Playhouse Elephant