Wednesday, April 05, 2006

REVIEW: The Walworth Farce (The Helix, Dublin)

A father and his two adult sons are holed up in a South London, in a Walworth Road tower block, to be precise. And you have to be precise around here. Otherwise Pa, that is Dinny, may just whack your ignorant head with the saucepan.

Together the trio (Denis Conway as Dinny, with Garrett Lombard and Aaron Monaghan as his troubled offspring) are preparing for what has, apparently for some time now, been a daily ritual.

They are about to re-enact a shaggy story that somehow explains how this distorted family ended up in the downright miserable situation in which we find it. But, of course, the little drama they are playing under Dinny’s direction (the play within the play) explains nothing of the sort.

Enigmatic is a word that relatively easily covered earlier efforts by the Walsh, such as Bedbound. But here, it doesn’t even come close. Here, the more we see, the more fragments of ‘the Walworth Farce’ that the trio perform, the less we understand of anything.

Walsh’s stroke is to use the speed and energy of farce, with its silly costumes and its broad physical comedy, not to provoke laughter, but instead to induce a kind of nauseous psychic disorientation.

The reaction of many members of the audience to all this is apparently to roll along with the slapstick and laugh. It will not be everyone’s response. If, say, you think of Hitchcock’s Psycho as a kind of high camp masterpiece, then you may indeed rack up the yucks.

But for the rest of us, the claustrophobic psychodrama will have other payoffs. Looking into Walsh’s tenement of demented mirrors, through the brilliant mist of director Mikel Murfi’s production, we are offered a glimpse of a family whose eccentricities have become perversions, whose malaise has become both murderous and terminal. Noises Off it ain’t.

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