Review – The Walworth Farce, National Theatre

Wednesday 24 September 2008

A major drama was played out at the National Monday evening.

In all the Whingers’ many years of theatre-going, never have they experienced  anything so tense, so immediate and so personally relevant.

There were moments of despair so profound they numbed the Whingers’ senses; and urgencies so imperative that adrenalin pumped through their veins.

Happily there was also hope, elation, redemption and a happy denouement which restored their faith in humanity.

Amazing stuff.

And once Andrew’s lost wallet had been recovered they went to see The Walworth Farce.

But the wallet episode was exciting and Andrew offers his gratitude to whoever found it (probably at the bar) and handed it in to the National Theatre; and to the kind woman on the National’s desk who took the trouble to phone Andrew up and tell him it was safely in her custody.

So it was that Andrew arrived huffing and puffing at the Cottesloe with just seconds to spare (for the tickets were in said wallet).

The only person disappointed with the outcome was Phil whose face betrayed the cruel dashing of his hope that perhaps he wouldn’t have to go to the theatre after all.

Anyway, The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh.

Dinny (Denis Conway) is an Irish ex-pat living with his two sons in a high rise flat in the Walworth Road. He fled Ireland when his two boys Blake (Garrett Lombard) and Sean (Tadhg Murphy) were five years old following a traumatic death at home.

Since then the three of them have been holed up in the flat, going down to the streets only when absolutely necessary in order to avoid being taken by the zombies (we think).

Every day is spent play-acting a farcical version of the events of their past using wigs and costumes which enable each to play a range of parts.

Their routine is disrupted when a kindly Tesco assistant (Mercy Ojelade who gets the one laugh-out-loud line of the night) turns up with some misplaced shopping.

Phil and some 30 other patrons left at the interval. Andrew battled it out until the end, having been promised by a “well-wisher” that there was a coup de theatre in the second act.

The thing is that it just wasn’t the Whingers’ cup of tea. Yes, the second act gains some tension once an unwelcome outsider is introduced into the set-up but the first act was practically all the telling of the play within the play.

The trouble is that an hour of bad actors doing a bad play is far too long even when it involves good actors playing the bad actors (and possibly in a quite good play – but any goodwill towards it had very much dried up by the interval).

Our suggestion to Mr Walsh: Cut the first act down by at least half and ditch the interval. Oh, and cut out the horrible bit about the dog.

Still, what do we know?

‘A theatrical experience that claws at the imagination for days afterwards.’

‘The Walworth Farce is as brilliant an original as you are likely to see in the theatre this year.’
The New York Sun

An unsettling but exhilarating blend of the hilarious with the horrifying.’
The Irish Times

Ferociously entertaining.’
The New York Times

A thumbs up for desinger Sabine Dargent‘s wonderfully decrepit set which is possibly based on Phil’s own flat, although with nicer furniture.

19 Responses to “Review – The Walworth Farce, National Theatre”

  1. Statler Says:

    We saw this at Edinburgh last year and had a pretty similar reaction to it. For me it wasn’t funny enough or dark enough to have any real impact – despite the strong performances.

    I’d started to believe we were alone in the world in not seeing what impressed the critics so much (and to be fair we’ve spoken to *real people* who have raved about it as well). I should have known I could rely on the Whingers.

  2. LaBrosse Says:

    Please see Turandot at Hampstead.
    It will provide a magnificent test of your powers of invective.

  3. Simone Says:

    I have to admit that last night as I was booking shows at the NT, I was close to booking this production but thought I’d wait. Glad I did!

  4. My favourite review:

    “I went to see the Walworth Farce at the Cottesloe which I thought was very good though rather strange – an Irish tale, scary but well told with a gory finish. Today my shoe rack arrived and so far I have miserably failed to assemble it.”

  5. dgr1 Says:

    This is the first thing I have ever walked out of at the National, and the worst thing I’ve seen this year. Given that I saw Afterlife AND Fram in the same week this indicates quite how awful this is.

    Still it’s good of the NT to spread their inadequacies through all three theatres…

  6. Enda Walsh cut the whole thing down to about an hour and two players, and wrote it several years before The Walworth Farce, when it was called Bedbound.

  7. Blue Frog Says:

    I’m glad Andrew was reunited with his wallet. I lost my i-Pod at the National and never got it back. This happened the night I went to see Fram, which meant the evening was upsetting and frustrating on several levels.

  8. Caroline Stead Says:

    This is by far from the first thing I’ve walked out of at the NT, but in my view, probably the most deserving of a thumbs down. As far as I’m concerned, if the first half of something is rubbish, it doesn’t matter whether the second half is better – I won’t be around to see it. The only consolation is that at least I paid the preview price (why does the Cottelsoe, alone of the 3 NT auditoria, never have cheap seats except with restricted views?) and didn’t have such a late night. I’d have left earlier than the interval, if possible. Had I waited for the reviews, I might have been fooled into booking belatedly, as some reviewers awarded it 4 stars.

  9. betsy Says:

    i think the reviewers fell for the idea of the play, rather than the horribly overlong experience…

  10. Oh, betsy. Are you picking fights with playwrights again? Go and sit on the naughty step.

  11. Angie Says:

    It was like the lovechild of ‘Stones in His Pockets’ and Pinter’s ‘The Homecoming’. If I’d been on my own, I would have left at the interval. Life’s too short to waste on this. ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ was the phrase that sprang to mind – after ‘weird, very weird’.

    I’m sure that looking for Andrew’s wallet was more exciting.

  12. betsy Says:

    Hey, this would be the West End Whingers, right? Not the West End Laudators? I think if I’ve given some of my hard-earned (see Andrew’s link above..) cash and two hours of my time to some playwright, hoping to be entertained, they could at least make the effort to keep me awake..

    Or am I dreaming?

  13. Derek Says:

    I love this website, after reading all the gush in Time Out, The Guardian, the Independent etc The Whingers say it like it is! The Walworth Farce gave me a headache, it was overlong, overcomplicated and all at the same frantic high pitch. I was glad to get out into the cooling rain.

  14. Patrick Says:

    As someone who managed to leave Fram even before the interval (there was a technical fault; I said a prayer of thanks and fled) and was bored into catatonia by Afterlife, I have to completely disagree about The Walworth Farce. I just saw it, and it was the best 2 hours I’ve had at the National in ages. Brilliantly funny, complex and menacing. I think you’ve missed a trick here.

  15. forget eating, cooking, painting see real urinating on stage, Enda’s latest “The New Electric Ballroom” at the Riverside as seen by your devoted fan

  16. Paul Says:

    Betsy got it right
    An interesting idea that was not actualised.
    The realism/surrealism clash was awkward and badly paced. The move from pathos to farce was not well paced either, neither in script nor direction (though in fairness to Murfi, he tried) Bring us to the edge of reason then pulling back with a shy apology is simply annoying

  17. Sarah Says:

    I just saw this play here in Adelaide, although with a different set of actors, and it was AMAZING. It was hilarious, intense, tragic and absolutely mind blowing. We just couldn’t get this play out of our head for days; i’m writing a review on it for my drama course right now. Spectacular and well worth the money!

  18. Felicity Biggins Says:

    I saw the touring production in Newcastle last night and found it something of an ordeal. While I can appreciate the skill in the writing and the performances it was all too frenetic and messy for me, a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I’m so glad the Whingers are in accord, God love them.

  19. […] The West End Whingers hated the play but quote from several of the good reviews – click here. […]

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