Thursday, July 28, 2016

Resident Alien by Tim Fountain

Resident Alien by Tim Fountain.  The Street in association with Cameron Lukey at The Street Theatre 2, July 27 – August 7, 2016.

Director – Gary Abrahams; Set Design – Romanie Harper; Lighting Design – Rob Sowinski; Sound Design – Daniel Nixon.
Performed by Paul Capsis

Reviewed by Frank McKone
July 27

Paul Capsis is brave to present his re-creation of the ascerbic Quentin Crisp, the English epitome of the intellectual queer, late in his life holed up in a cluttered claustrophobic room in Manhattan: in United States’ terminology, a ‘resident alien’.  Crisp’s character, based on his life and writings, is alienated from any ‘ordinary’ kind of life: he even proposes a law to say everyone must die by the age of 60.  The punishment for not dying will be to keep on living!

Capsis keeps us on the edge of wanting to feel sorry for Crisp’s loneliness – for which Crisp would condemn us for insulting him – and valuing the stringent truths about the human condition which we avoid at our peril.  In the end, as he boils a potato and fries his last egg, almost grimly eating as his spotlight fades, we are left to understand that we each must die alone.  That’s the only reality.  Life is just a short interlude between birth and death.

We are aware of Capsis’ bravery in the long pauses between speaking, sometimes brief ironically amusing stories, sometimes a flurry of critical assertions, by a character with a whole raft of tiny physical actions.  This is an extraordinary representation of a clearly recognisable Quentin Crisp, showing both the outward public figure who appeared on television, published book reviews – the intellectual stirrer – alongside his underlying insecurities. 

Gary Abrahams’ directing must be given full credit here, as it must for the wonderfully/awfully grotty set design by Romanie Harper, the abstract half-threatening background sound by Daniel Nixon – fading and swelling with our feelings – and, especially I thought, for Rob Sowinski’s lighting which gave the small space a living dynamism as lights subtly took us to different places and different degrees of emphasis.

I’m pleased, too, that the show was in the small Street Theatre 2.  The intimacy of almost being in the room with Crisp gave the play strength which I wonder might be harder to achieve on a larger or especially a proscenium stage.  As a Street Contemporary Drama Presentation, Resident Alien is a great success.