Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce is a play that explores what happens when we get stuck in the stories we tell about our lives. It was first performed by Druid Theatre Company at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway, on 20 March 2006, before touring to Cork and Dublin. It was revived at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 3 August 2007 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and received its London premiere at the National Theatre in September 2008.
The play is set in a council flat on the Walworth Road in South London. Fifty-year-old Dinny, exiled from his native city Cork, lives here with his two sons Blake (twenty-five) and Sean (twenty-four). Every day they perform a play which depicts, in garbled form, their last day in Ireland, including the death of Dinny's mother, followed by Dinny murdering his brother and sister-in-law. Blake plays all the female roles in a variety of wigs, while Sean plays the male roles. They also perform as younger versions of themselves, in which they bully other children and kill a dog. As they repeat the play (to an audience of nobody), it becomes apparent that this is a script that is constantly revised and modified, and features many bizarre events (such as Dinny's mother and neighbour dying in an accident involving a horse and a speedboat). Sean has some memory of the real events, and tells Blake (who has no memory of them) that the boys were in reality quiet children who planned to become astronauts and bus drivers when they grew up, and that their depiction as young sadists is their father's invention. Only Sean is permitted to leave the flat, walking down fifteen flights of stairs to go to the local Tesco supermarket for supplies. One day he accidentally brings back the wrong shopping, and the cashier, Hayley, who has developed a connection to Sean, follows him to the flat to give him his groceries. The first act ends with her entrance into the flat, as the present day and reality intrude on Dinny's recreation of an imagined past. Hayley is abruptly taken prisoner and forced to participate in the family's ritual, but her presence is enough to exacerbate the fissures that have already appeared. Hayley is determined to escape, and to take Sean with her.
Incorporating many of the staple elements of farce, including the doubling up of roles, rapid costume changes and a complex plot, the play explores the psychological impact of exile and dependency on a mythologised version of the past – themes that recur frequently in Walsh's work. In his Foreword to Enda Walsh Plays: Two (Nick Hern Books, 2014), Walsh writes that the play is about the 'feeling of being trapped and churned by your environment... [it] formed itself as a high-octane farce, which was a real surprise as we have no history of that style of performance back in Ireland. I had that image of farce seeping out of the West End and tunnelling under the Thames and finding its way to a tower block – and into the unfortunate lives of these Irishmen who really should be building Britain'.
The original Druid production was directed by Mikel Murfi and designed by Sabine Dargent, with Denis Conway as Dinny, Aaron Monaghan as Sean, Garrett Lombard as Blake and Syan Blake as Hayley.
The production at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh featured Denis Conway as Dinny, Tadhg Murphy as Sean, Garrett Lombard as Blake and Natalie Best as Hayley, and received a Fringe First Award. It was performed by the same cast at the National Theatre, with the exception of Mercy Ojelade, who played Hayley.
Between 2006 and 2010 the play toured extensively in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.