In 2010, Sydney audiences were treated to The Druid Theatre Company’s production of Irish writer Enda Walsh’s warped comedy.
It was, as I recall it, brilliantly performed yet it left no great impression, with the frantic action made remote in the too-large Roslyn Packer Theatre.
One memory I do have is of the many empty seats after interval.
In complete contrast, this close-up, gripping production delivered by Workhorse Theatre, keeps its audience nailed to their seats.
The Walworth Farce is set entirely in a grotty 15th floor London flat, home to Dinny (Laurence Coy) and his sons Blake (Robin Goldsworthy) and Sean (Troy Harrison).
Every day, under Dinny’s demanding direction, a story is enacted, one that has the three men playing the many characters of an amateur Orton-esque farce set in a grand house overlooking their native Cork.
In it, Dinny plays an idealised version of himself, a house painter and devoted family man with an uncanny gift for neurosurgery. Blake plays all the female roles. Sean plays Dinny’s feckless brother Paddy.
After hundreds, maybe thousands of repetitions, the farce has become the central ritual of their lives, a foundation myth explaining their exile and why their beloved mummy isn’t around any more.
This weird show isn’t meant for an audience. But it gets one in the form of a Tesco checkout operator Hayley (Rachel Alexander), who has formed a slender attachment to Sean during his visits to the supermarket to buy a fresh roast chicken, one of the essential props of the performance.
Exposed to the view of this outside eye, the suffocating violence of Dinny’s dominion is suddenly thrown into sharp relief.
This manic situation comedy is delivered at point blank range in this Kim Hardwick-directed production, one that captures the psychological and choreographic intricacies of Walsh’s script.
Isabel Hudson’s set is perfectly horrible in its detail and the actors work this traverse staging expertly.
Coy is tremendously good as the bullying father-fabulist. Goldsworthy and Harrison match him as the tortured sons trapped in daddy’s self-serving fantasy. Alexander shines as the sunny Hayley comes to understand the danger she is in.
To be honest, I had no great appetite for a second serving of The Walworth Farce prior to seeing this production. Now I’d happily go back for thirds.