Written by Tim Fountain
Directed by Gary Abrahams
Performed by Paul Capsis
The Street Theatre to 7 August
Reviewed by Len Power 27 July 2016
Quentin Crisp was fond of saying that he was ‘one of the stately homos of England’. A brave – or foolish – man, he wore his effeminacy openly and proudly between the wars in the 20th century and beyond when homosexuality was illegal and looked upon with disgust by society. His autobiography, ‘The Naked Civil Servant’, published in 1968, brought him fame and a much applauded television portrayal of him by actor, John Hurt. He performed his own one man show and appeared in several movies. From 1981, he lived in New York in a filthy apartment in the East Village, never compromising his attitudes and ideals for anyone.
Tim Fountain’s play, written in 1999, the year Crisp died, focuses on a day in the life of Quentin Crisp in his New York apartment. The play nicely captures Crisp, the man, and his highly entertaining and often spot on comments on people, himself and life in general.
Paul Capsis, who plays Crisp in this one person show, gives a superb performance. Much younger than Crisp was at this point in his life, Capsis’s necessary facial makeup is very noticeable in the intimate Street Two theatre, but just adds to the theatricality of this man who loved an audience. Capsis gives a highly controlled and detailed performance, bringing Crisp unnervingly to life and his fine sense of timing works wonders with the quotable quotes. His skill as an actor shows the moving as well as funny side of this character.
The New York apartment set in all its filthy glory was well-designed by Romaine Harper. Wigmaker, Jurga Celikiene, has helped to transform Capsis into Quentin Crisp with her brilliant wig apparently made from yak and human hair. Sound and lighting effects added nicely to the atmosphere of the show.
Gary Abrahams has directed the show expertly, tempering the amusing aspects of the show with a darkness of the reality of Crisp’s existence. It all works very well.
This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition on 28 July 2016. Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program on Saturdays from 9am.