Images above: Mark Farrelly as Quentin Crisp and as Patrick Hamilton
Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope, Tuesday 28 March
Theatre at the Tabard is staging two one-man plays next week, written and performed by Mark Farrelly and directed by Linda Marlowe.
The first, on Tuesday 28 March, Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope, portrays the extraordinary life of the author of The Naked Civil Servant. The second, The Silence of Snow: The life of Patrick Hamilton, on Wednesday 29 March, is about the Chiswick writer whose novels about the seamier side of life in London in the 1920s made him rich and famous when he was still a young man.
Mark came across Quentin Crisp’s show An evening with Quentin Crisp when he was at a particularly low ebb himself, and found him inspirational. He was known for his wit, his flamboyance, and his refusal to hide who he was at a time when homosexuality was illegal and refusing to hide who he was got him regularly beaten up.
He was briefly a rent boy in his teens, then spent 30 years working as a life model, hence the name of his biography. He became a gay icon, with his distinctive fashion sense and success as a raconteur making him a trailblazer.
He wore big hats and capes, bright make-up, crimson dyed hair and painted his fingernails and toenails when such things were not seen on the streets of London. It brought him admiration and curiosity from some, but more often hostility and violence.
” ‘I wear makeup to reveal, not to conceal’ he said” Mark told The Chiswick Calendar. “He was ostracised and beaten, yet he refused to compromise.”
Image above: Mark Farrelly as Quentin Crisp
The Silence of Snow: The Life of Patrick Hamilton, Wednesday 29 March
Both Quentin Crisp and Patrick Hamilton were habitués of Soho in the 1920s. Patrick’s father was an alcoholic who drank the family’s funds, leaving them living in a succession of boarding houses.
The family came to Chiswick first when Patrick was ten, to a substantial six bedroom property at 2 Burlington Gardens, but they moved about, staying in a succession of boarding houses, rented rooms and small hotels in London, Hove and Brighton. When they returned to Chiswick it was to a boarding house in Barrowgate Rd.
He left school prematurely, his schooling cut short by an outbreak of Spanish flu. His mother was afraid of him catching it and withdrew him from Westminster School at the age of 15. He wanted to be a poet, but realising that didn’t pay, turned his hand to novels and plays.
By the age of 25 he had a hit play in the West End – Rope, which Alfred Hitchcock subsequently turned into a successful film – and a critically acclaimed novel The Midnight Bell, in which he described falling in love with a prostitute. His play Gaslight gave rise to the current term ‘gaslighting’.
“He wrote about obsession” Mark told me. “His father had been an alcoholic and he also gradually became one. As the world darkened in the 1930s, so his world view also darkened. He became a maudlin drinker and went from this heady, excitable life into a darkness.
“Hangover Square, his most accessible book, is about a guy who becomes obsessed with an actress who is narcissistic.
“By the time he wrote his last good book, The Slaves of Solitude, he was on the slide, finding it difficult to write because of his addiction to alcohol. By the 1950s he was on three bottles a day.
“The play covers the whole sweep of his life.”
Mark has been touring with both these plays for ten years now, alongside two more plays: one about the comedian Frankie Howerd, Howerd’s End, the other about Derek Jarman – artist, film maker, costume designer, stage designer, writer, gardener and gay rights activist.
Image above: Four plays by Mark Farrelly
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See also: “The National Film Theatre of Chiswick”
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