The Walworth Farce – Enda Walsh speaks through Sydney. (Theatre Review)

The Walworth Farce

Workhorse Theatre Company and bAKEHOUSE Theatre

May 18 to June 9 You can grab your tickets here.

For Enda Walsh as he writes in The Walworth Farce (and in so many of his other plays) life constitutes multiplicities. Indeed, to exist is a multiplicity. For the Ireland he writes of so eloquently through to the grubby life in a cheaper London, The Walworth Farce is always concerned with the appearance of this multiplicity, particularly how it reveals itself in a determinate world. When we see The Walworth Farce we come to terms to a degree to the various multiplicities and how they manifest as inconsistencies in so far as they happen in the world or appear on the horizon of that world. Walsh challenges us inside his play to call the appearance of this multiplicity in the world existence. For characters Dinny (Laurence Coy) Sean (Troy Harrison) and Blake (Robin Goldsworthy) existence is multiplicity; the various faces of Ireland, various versions of truth, various states of freedom and various ways of working or being occupied.


Seen in this light and performed by Workhorse Theatre Company in the intimacy of the Kings Cross Theatre, the technical elaboration of a distinction between being and existence take various forms, depending entirely on the audience member. The relationship between being and being-there or the relationship between multiplicity and inscription in the world becomes a transcendental one. It consists in the fact that any multiplicity is assigned a degree of existence in the world and a degree of appearance. Until the arrival of Hayley (Rachel Alexander with the best West London accent you’ll hear on an Australian stage) the role of assigning belongs to the audience member, and we can see the players though they can’t see us. We watch Dinny, Sean and Blake role play for themselves, not the audience, and we are left to assign the degree of existence and the degree of appearance. The intensity of this appearance we can also call the intensity of existence. A multiplicity can appear in several different worlds and this occurs with different levels of intensity. We the audience assign this intensity based on our perceptions. What we identify in the play as ‘life’ (and is not this the same with our own ‘life’) Is often a transition from a world in which the players appear with a lower degree of existence to a world in which their degree of existence is much more intense. Sean and Blake almost didn’t exist in Cork. They barely remember it and Dinny’s stories have become more real. This play, Enda Walsh seems to say, is a moment of life. It is a lived experience. Is not all our life lived in this way? Performing roles assigned to uphold a narrative drive by the story telling capacity of another?

It naturally follows then, given life is a multiplicity that appears in our world and given the elements of that multiplicity which appear along with it, there is always one component in that multiplicity whose appearance is measured by the lowest degree. In other words, there is always an aspect that has a minimal appearance. In the case of The Walworth Farce, it is Sean and Blake who have the minimal degree of existence in the determinate world. They are the non-existent in the multiplicities within which watch in the play. It is not the physical manifestation of Sean and Blake that we doubt, rather it is the political existence that has been erased. Erased through narrative, erased through a greater emphasis placed on alternate multiplicities. Poor, illiterate and dependent, they have been completely removed from political representation. Like the culture from which they extend, multiplicities have valued some things over others and those left to the outer regions are absent, not in the tangible, but from the narrative. Dinny exists, not as a character, but as a writer. His voice is the thing they speak each day. It is Sean and Blake who have been sublimated to nothingness on behalf of the strength of broader narratives.  Through Kim Hardwicks interpretation we can see the two men as representative of a broader Irish culture sublimated to the power of larger English-speaking narratives – such as England and America.

This current manifestation of The Walworth Farce blossoms under the direction of Kim Hardwick. Heavily concerned with the question of what it means to be Irish, Kim Hardwick plays with this idea (particularly as it can’t be ignored that this play is being performed in Kings Cross in Sydney Australia) to be Irish (at least for the observations of this outsider) has become something in the academic repertory, especially when one is talking literature and written voice – as is The Walworth Farce. Rather than pin the play down on meaning, in Kim Hardwicks capable hands, we are left with indications of speculative desire or a desire for thought. That this desire, like all desires, begins with an encounter or an acknowledgement. Within this production of The Walworth Farce, to be in the world is always an experience of discursive imposition. We can conclude that inside that, as we search for meaning, whatever form that discursive imposition may take, there is a point that escapes that imposition that we can call a vanishing point. A vanishing point is the point at which the expression flees the rule of its imposition. It is not that Dinny is feeding Sean and Blake stories to contain them is shocking as much as the ephemeral moment of their grasping at this truth is the horror to which we are made witness. It is not the truth we see that is a problem, it is the moment we realise that truth is one of a variety of perspectives that we are plunged into abjection.

Workhorse Theatre Companies production of The Walworth Farce is a superb night of theatre. Kim Hardwick successfully incorporates the ironies of evoking an energetically Irish experience in an intimate Sydney theatre to include each of us engaged in the question of what it is to be human. Troy Harrison leads the cast with his potent performance as the self-effacing Sean, while Robin Goldsworthy gives a career best performance as his brother Blake. The two brothers are lock step and engage the audience in the complex script and physicality of the play instantly. Laurence Coy is a menacing and frightening Dinny, evoking ataxia rather than control and infusing the play with sublimated terror. Rachel Alexander is pitch perfect, well cast and properly representational as the outsider now within. This is a great production and a marvelous Sydney adaptation of this excellent play. Take a bunch of friends and enjoy a long conversation after with a glass of wine – this play is heavy with food for thought.