You may be familiar with Quentin Crisp from John Hurt’s portrayal in the two television plays The Naked Civil Servant and An Englishman in New York.
“I retired at birth”, states Crisp here, sitting, middle-aged, in the house he refused to clean (“after four years the dust doesn’t get any worse”). He’s not the real thing, of course, as the man passed away in 1999, far reinvented from the former Denis Pratt, the name he was given at birth. But we meet him here, in the 1960s, and again in the United States of the 1990s, a kind of national treasure of the Miss Havisham kind.
Written and performed by Mark Farrelly, and directed by octogenerian actress Linda Marlowe, Naked Hope is dazzling, and brings a semblance of the real man back to life. You find him on the streets doing sex work and dodging abuse, and dealing with his own personality as a man in his dotage.
A gay icon, quirky raconteur, and true English eccentric, Crisp was acutely aware that as he was born no-one, he had to become someone, and as he was feminine and camp, he had to develop a skin of armour made of wit and self-deprecation. Farrelly is, of course, far too young for the role – by the time Crisp went to New York he was seventy years old, and most people will think of him as the old man with the coloured hair and the hat.
Where this show soars is in realising that Crisp was acting a part his entire life, and despite that, he was about as real as it gets. He spoke carefully as if considering each word as a delicate morsel to consume, displaying a sharp intelligence of solid shell over a vulnerable heart. “Discover who you are, and be it”, he says, from his pink tinged stage of two tiers at the Wilton’s Music Hall.
Quentin Crisp discovered who he was at birth, it seemed, and created who he wanted to be. This is a fitting tribute to a complex and elegant man who celebrated his own brand of queerness. “I am notorious”, is the cry of this survivor.
You can watch Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope on stream.theatre until 1 August – book your tickets here.
Image credit: Seabright Productions
LouRevuews received coimplimentary access to review Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope.