Tuesday, July 5

Naked Hope – Seabright Productions

These days, much is said about people being able to choose pronouns which apply to them.  Quentin Crisp is one of the people who might debate his chosen pronoun, yet I get the feeling he would have poo pooed the whole idea. “Be who you are whenever you want” I think I can hear him say in that nasal drawl which was one of his trademarks.

That nasal drawl was an attribute Mark Farrelly used sparingly In the first part of the play, but used to great effect in the second part. However, I’m ahead of myself.

When we first meet Farrellys’ Quentin recounting his early life, I was distracted by the Phyllis Pearce wig and the dead centre of the forehead microphone. Fortunately, the actor drew me back very quickly with many of Quentin Crisp’s standard phrases “I’m not just a homosexual, but an effeminate homosexual”. “A minority within a minority”.

We travel the life of Crisp through the war years where life gave him so many possibilities and into the puritanical fifties where those possibilities disappeared. The swinging sixties where the population seemed to be following his fashion trends to the seventies where he found fame as this autobiography was televised. There are some nice references to John Hurt’s performance. The second part of the play sees Mr Crisp as a celebrity in New York. Albeit on his own terms as you would expect.

There are so many amusing stories Quentin Crisp told about himself, it must have taken great discipline for the author Mark Farrelly not to give the actor Mark Farrelly too many. His judgement and balance is en pointe. His construction assured.

So to the actor Mark Farrelly. My main problem, I’ve already mentioned. But, in the second part where we see a reconstruction of his Broadway show, there is an awkwardness about his posture that makes Quentin Crisp look like an ageing quiz show host. There are more subtle ways to depict age than dropped shoulders. In chat show clips I have seen, Quentin Crisp was ram rod straight into old age. These are minor quibbles in a performance which is large and expansive yet small and delicate. Mr Farrelly brings Quentin Crisp to the stage with a performance of great empathy and skill.

The direction by Linda Marlow is assured and she is not afraid of a decent sized pause and allowing the fourth wall to be broken. She paces the action with variety and great polish.

This production proves that If religion was secular, Quentin Crisp would be a saint by now.

Streaming online until 1st August at https://www.stream.theatre/season/161

Reviewer: Philip Edwards

Reviewed: 23rd July 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★