By: Darryl Reilly
“After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse,” “My childhood ambition was to be a chronic invalid” and “You Know Who,” were from among the hallowed hit parade of monumental quotes that the dynamic young British actor Mark Farrelly grandly proclaimed during his glorious self-written solo show, Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope. It debuted in the United Kingdom in 2014 to great acclaim and has since been performed internationally. This one night presentation at Feinstein’s/54 Below was its U.S. premiere.
Bewigged in Crisp’s signature swirling coif, clad in tan trousers, sandals and an untucked forestial geometric print shirt, the lean and animated Mr. Farrelly offered an impeccable recreation of that 20th century icon circa 1968. With his rumbling fluty voice and expressive physicality, Farrelly faithfully channeled the legend’s persona, at one point holding a tea cup with tremendous flair. It was a sensational performance that should have totally fulfilled Crisp aficionados’ expectations and intrigued those unfamiliar with him.
In its initial 60 minutes, Farrelly’s shrewd treatment which is derived from Crisp’s own words, creatively distilled The Naked Civil Servant’s key events with picaresque élan, confidently eschewing laborious exposition. It’s assumed that we know all about Crisp and if we don’t, we’ll enthusiastically go along anyway and look him up later.
Some of the flavorful episodes incorporated are the Soho cafe misfits’ camaraderie, streetwalking prostitution, public beatings, police arrests, the W.W. II time of fraternization with U.S. servicemen and working as artists’ models. The latter 30 minutes depicts Crisp’s 1980’s New York City years. For this portion Farrelly quick-changed into a dusty black suit, a gray wig and physically conveyed mild decrepitude to vividly portray Crisp in his eminent elder period.
Having distinguished herself in numerous works by British stage titian Steven Berkoff and being a compatriot of his, celebrated actress and this show’s director Linda Marlowe brings a dazzling sense of theatricality to Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope with her artful staging. There’s just a chair onstage but Ms. Marlowe conjures up a series of arresting stage pictures and tableaus in concert with dramatic lighting and choice bits of evocative music and sound effects. Marlowe has Farrelly on his knees, arms out stretched to boldly visualize a degrading rent boy escapade. It’s among several of her presentational flourishes along with a haunting slow motion sequence of violence.
Mark Farrelly creates an enthralling commemoration, maintaining its subject’s spirit 20 years after his death in Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope.
Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope (January 30, 2019)
Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, in Manhattan
For information, visit www.markfarrelly.co.uk
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission