The Walworth Farce

In the final summer of the 1980’s, my father migrated from his home in Birmingham to the smallest apartment imaginable on Dublin’s south side. The rationale for his transfer was to be part of a summer production in the Olympia Theatre. Throughout the course of his three month stint, he met my mother.

Two years ago, I also had the wonderful opportunity to perform on the Olympia Theatre stage as an entry in the final Alternative Miss Ireland competition. My performance narrated the traditional Snow White fairy-tale but from my own unique perspective; the leading lady stood at 3’5″ whilst the ‘dwarfs’ towered above her. It was an incredible honour to have my parents join me on stage for that performance. For me, it was the perfect ‘happily ever after’ to a story that spanned almost three decades.

In January/February 2015, another family trio will take to the Olympia Theatre stage. You might have heard of them; Brendan, Brian and Domhnall Gleeson. For just one month, audiences will have an opportunity to witness three of Ireland’s acting aficionado’s at ‘home’.

Earlier this week, both I and John McBratney had the privilege of speaking with Brendan and Brian Gleeson about their upcoming play, ‘The Walworth Farce’. Written by Enda Walsh (of Ballyturk, Misterman and Once fame) and produced by Landmark Productions (of Ballyturk, Howie the Rookie and Dandelions fame) I could barely contain my excitement in the midst of the interview.
The Walworth Farce

Brendan, you mentioned on stage that Domhnall (Gleeson) first brought ‘The Walworth Farce’ to your attention; did it take much to convince you to pursue his idea?

Brendan: For a while now, the three of us have been looking for something to do together. Domhnall suggested ‘The Walworth Farce’ because he believed that it would fit the bill. Brian had seen the play before but I hadn’t but the way they both spoke about it, it seemed perfect. I guess that there was no convincing at all really, it was the perfect fit.

What drew you in, Brian?

Brian: Well, Enda Walsh is so well known, it wasn’t like ‘Here’s this project that no one has ever heard of, let’s think about it’. He’s such a brilliant writer; we seemed to slot into the roles so well, we were very well served by the play. There wasn’t much to think about really!

Brendan: Yeah, there wasn’t a whole load of casting that had to go on! The two lads had to decide who would play the elder and young son.

You didn’t want that part, Brendan?

Brendan: I did! They wouldn’t let me! There was a little bit of thinking about that but a little light went off in our heads and we knew it was ‘the one’. After that, it was just a question of whether or not we could bring it together and if Enda (Walsh) would be up for it.

You both have huge experiences in theatre and film but what is different or special about being on stage?

Brian: When you go to see a play, the performance will never be the exact same again and I love that. It makes each night special!

Brendan: Yeah, I kind of feel that it’s a different craft. Film is a very inward art form; the camera follows you and you hide from it or give to it sparingly but theatre is different particularly in the Olympia. It’s such a big theatre and I remember playing here and the gods being full. You have to be conscious that you interact with those people too – not just the stalls. The actuality and reality of it is a different experience for both the actor and the audience.

Having not performed on stage for quite a while, does the upcoming performance instill a sense of fear in you or is theatre simply in your bones?

Brendan: No, it doesn’t. The last play that I did was approximately fifteen years ago. Prior to that performance, I hadn’t performed on stage for another six years. On the opening of that Billy Roach play, I had all of that trepidation that you mention. I was terrified but I remember hearing the first laugh and being completely invigorated by it. I had totally forgotten how the audience help you. For ‘The Walworth Farce’, I’m slightly nervous about the technical aspects along with making sure that I have the right pitch and being certain that my voice patterns aren’t too low…

Brian: …but if you’re surrounded by good people?

And family!

Brian: And family, exactly!

Brendan: I’m safe with the lads and because I spent so much time in this particular theatre in my younger years, it feels like a safe place and I really just can’t wait to get to work.

In some ways, are your two sons providing a caring role for you during this production?

Brendan: Ha! In a sense, I guess they are! You know what they say, ‘Once a man, twice a child’; I’m heading into childhood again, they’re starting to take care of me! It’s not just because they’re family but I know that I’m sharing the stage with two actors who are both committed and generous of spirit. I firmly believe that they’re going to bring huge amounts to the table and neither have an agenda other than making this play the best that it can be. That is comforting!

My final question for you both, what would you like the main talking point of The Walworth Farce to be?

Brendan: Exhilaration!

Brian: Yes exactly! Introspection too but hopefully audiences come away flushed and affected by the experience.

Thank you Sinéad and Sabrina for all of their assistance. Tickets for ‘The Walworth Farce’ are on sale now.

Written by

Sinéad Burke is an academic and a writer with an obsessive interest in fashion, education and 'Extraordinary Women'. She is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Women's Council of Ireland.