TNC CLASSIC 2016
Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope
11, September, 2021 | 19:00
Interview originally published 2014.
The iconic raconteur extraordinaire Quentin Crisp was unashamed of who he was and never tried to hide his identity this from his pubic. Being an openly flamboyant homosexual man had serious risks when Crisp was in his 20s and the attacks and abuse he would endure would have been frequent.
Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope from Mark Farrelly charts Crisp’s early life in London and his eventual move to New York City - a powerfully gentle one man show brought to life with a care and respect that is breathtakingly touching.
In just over an hour writer/performer Farrelly manages to split Crisp story into two periods, his early London life and his latter years in New York. Both periods offering painful honest examples of his life. In a dingy flat in London, with barely enough money for food and a veritable ‘one man Oxfam’, Quentin Crisp seems older than he is at this point in his life. He has somewhat resigned himself to being a never-was but maintains his quintessential optimism. His continued wild abandon and carefree attitude delights as Farrelly treats the audiences to tales of Crisp’s family life, his youth, and the what he had to do to survive.
There is no holding back as Farrelly shares these stories of Crisp’s life, from his father's reaction to the attacks to his time as a male prostitute. But the most painful memory seems to be the attitudes from other gay men at his blatant homosexual outer self. It is during these early years that the feelings of loneliness start to have a formative effect on the young Crisp. And with the treatment he got from other, less flamboyant homosexuals, one could argue is where his dislike of the ‘gay movement’ might have come from.
But then in the 1970s ‘The Naked Civil Servant’ TV show made him a star in both the UK and US which led him to eventually moving to New York. Now he has money, fame and audiences eating out of the palm of his hand. Crisp one man show was known for being split in two halves with the second half being a Q&A section with the audience - something wonderfully realised here by Farrelly. He maintained a public listing in the phonebook and would speak to all as well as take dinner invitations from anyone offering, he seemed so in need of someone.
"Farrelly has a lot he can use and has created a balanced and informative show that is as funny as it is touching with some delicious “Crisperanto”."
Farrelly’s writing delves into the obvious loneliness Crisp must have felt for most of his life, the heart wanting to be and feel love but circumstance never letting it happen. The chance meeting with an American GI during the war triggers the first moment the audience sees Farrelly’s ‘Crisp’ somewhat vulnerable. Yet the fame and renown he discovered later in life might have acted as a surrogate for not having the love he had longed for.
Throughout the show there are wonderful little sparks of what life would have been life for the self-confessed effeminate gay. This honesty and complete believability in Farrelly as Crisp seems in keeping with the spirit of who Crisp was, no fluff just complete frankness that makes you smile. Farrelly has a lot he can use and has created a balanced and informative show that is as funny as it is touching with some delicious “Crisperanto”. Linda Marlowe keeps the movement measured and has allowed Farrelly time to bring his Crisp to fruition never rushing any of the scenes or the switch from London to New York.
One leaves Naked Hope excited, intrigued, revived and slightly more willing to find that authentic true self that we sometimes deny ourselves. Quentin Crisp refused to follow the pack and remained his own man till the day he died. This individuality endeared him to audiences allowing the raconteur to become one of the most important gay icons of the past 30 years.
Hearing his story brought so lovingly to life by Mark Farrelly only cements why Quentin Crisp was a true original.