Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Walworth Farce

By Enda Walsh

The Walworth Farce
The Walworth Farce

Directed by Mikel Murfi

Produced by Druid Ireland

At Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Raw, exciting and truly baffling Irish work delivers

Farce: “a light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather than upon the development of character.” –

Druid Ireland from Galway has been since 1975 one of the true innovators in Irish theatre. Their production of Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce, now on a world tour, stops at Chicago Shakespeare’s upstairs theatre for only 5 more performances. This is part of the World’s Stage program at Chicago Shakespeare. The Walworth Farce is a frenzied tour de force for Michael Glenn Murphy (Dinny), Tadge Murphy (Sean), Raymond Scannell (Blake) and Mercy Ojelade (Hayley).


Called a farce but really a darkly comic psychological tragedy, in Enda Walsh’s stunning work he has constructed a tightly drawn and thrilling piece of theatre that deconstructs and satirizes the standard plot situations and stereotypes of Irish theatre. Walsh’s work is darker and more tragic that Conor McPherson or Martin McDonagh’s. He is relatively unknown in the USA—but not anymore. The Walworth Farce is an amazing funny, yet macabre and tragic work. It offers a new twist on the power and obsession of story telling. Walsh vividly demonstrates that we, indeed, are our own stories and that if we endlessly continue to re-enact them in a purely ritual play-within-a-play daily format—they can distort reality as the line between ritual and reality becomes blurred.


Dinny—the father and his two adult sons, Sean and Blake, have a daily routine in their shabby London flat on Walworth Road. At 11 o’clock in the morning—a six pack of Harp, 15 crackers with spreadable cheese, 10 pink biscuit wafers and one baked chicken with blue sauce are consumed. The day ends with five murders. There is cross-dressing, mistaken identifies, quick costume changes with the three playing an assortment of wacky characters. This most physical comedy—slaps, running-around and much frantic screaming envelop this OCD family that sure gives new meaning to dysfunctional families.

The action is furious as Dinny’s tight control over his sons is compressed into their ritual play-within-a play as we slowly learn why Dinny left Ireland and why his son’s won’t dare leave him as they are confined to their flat. The reduction into insanity the family exhibits comes to shocking contract when Hayley, a store clerk come to the flat to deliver the package that Sean left by accident at the food store. The game changes as Hayley is forced to become an unwilling participant in the ritual. The dark side comes to life as the physicality and the violence increases. Delusional fantasy can lead to ruin when we convince ourselves that the stories we tell are true.

The actors demonstrated their skilled theatrical craft with splendid articulation with the dense, rapid-fire dialogue, that combined with doses of physical comic movement and violence, produced a visceral and deeply honest show. Insanity, obsession and delusion behavior were deftly played by the three men. Mercy Ojelade’s truthful performance went from sweet innocence to sheer terror. We feel for her vulnerability.

The players from Druid Theatre have delivered a gutsy in-your-face show most at home in the raw Chicago style theatre made famous by Steppenwolf, Shattered Globe and Profiles Theatre. Hurry, you have only 5 more performances left to see this shocking work. I look forward to more plays by Enda Walsh and more imports for Druid.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At Chicago Shakespeare’s Upstairs Theater, Navy Pier, Chicago, call 312-595-5600,, Thursday, Oct. 29, Friday, Oct 30 at 7:30, Saturday, Oct 31 at 2 & 7:30 pm, Sunday, Nov, 1 at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.

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