Saturday, January 28

Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope – King’s Head Theatre

“Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper”.

‘Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope’ by Writer/Performer/Producer Mark Farrelly debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014 and has toured constantly ever since, recently reaching its 150th performance. Directed by Linda Marlow, it offers a brief 70-minute snapshot into the extraordinary life of the legendary Quentin Crisp and is currently being performed as a unique double bill with ‘Jarman’.

Split into two distinct parts, the play opens in the late 1960s in a grubby Chelsea flat. The audience is introduced to Quentin who suggests that “If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style”. This is a clear indication of the rules and values that served as an undertone to Quentin’s early life of beatings and rejections. Peppered with a 60’s soundtrack, with a virtually bare stage and simple lighting (Craig West), the thoughtful and delicately delivered production shines a light on a man who lived as an effeminate openly gay male, repeatedly targeted for his flamboyantly ways and unusual style and criticised, spurned and abused by all sides of society for living life unapologetically and on his own terms. Throughout, Farrelly uses Quentin’s own words to reveal Quentin’s larger-than-life personality and sarcasm, but there is a palpable sadness and pain in this part of the play, the man is isolated, and Farrelly handles this with style, ensuring that he delivers Quentin’s flamboyance in a way that is entirely respectful and not in any way a pantomime caricature of the iconic figure.

The second part of the play transitions to 1990s New York, with a much older Quentin centre stage at a public performance, and a script that seems to draw upon his own writings from that period. The pace of this section is faster, lighter, and driven by more witty humour. There is a clear gear shift in Quentin during this time, embraced by society, a celebrity, able to regale his audiences with his unique life observations, and philosophy. There is something hopeful that wasn’t there in the first part of Quentin’s life.

Farrelly, an accomplished actor is so easy to watch, he commands the audience attention in every sharply word spoken. The connection he has with the script and the confidence in which he plays Quentin is inspirational and incredibly sincere. I don’t think he ever met Quentin, but you can feel there is a friendship there.

Throughout the play Quentin’s refusal to be defined by others is clear, and the second part moves the audience towards Quentin’s message to the world, one of hope, celebration, and inspiration to live one’s life fabulously. Highly recommended.

‘Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope’ continues at the Kings head Theatre until 26th August. Tickets are available from https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/quentin-crisp-naked-hope

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin

Reviewed: 11th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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