Writer: Mark Farrelly
Director: Linda Marlowe
Reviewer: John Kennedy
Hagiography, visceral, warts n’ all dissection, Mark Farrelly’s, soul-gnawing, one man biographical portrait of Patrick Hamilton as literary furnace/self-destructive drinker for England, is a study of crafted intelligence, intimate research and empathic nuance.
Even so, it’s a big ask to anticipate evoking anything other than contemptible antipathy for such an adulterous, fractured drunkard, notwithstanding his being royally feted as a literary sensation by his mid-twenties.
Opening in a Muswell Hill clinic through reported and imaginary dialogues we learn, via a series of flashbacks (quite literally so) that Hamilton has elected to undergo electro-therapy treatment to wean himself off the bottle. Indeed, the very one he’s drinking from during his slurred prologue. This is a broken man down on his uppers.
Potent, portent thunder-rolls punctuate the narrative. Lights flicker, ozone crackles. These synaptic flashes snapping Hamilton back to the present and his impending head-to-dread encounter with the National Grid.
His alcoholism will eventually kill him but already his increasing cynicism towards Capitalism and the ravages of Fascism had turned his razor wit ever more inwards with eviscerating misanthropic bitterness. ‘My life is defined by two car crashes, one literally, the other?’
An analogy sounding tiresome and self-pitying, which it is, and even worse lazy, it skewers him perfectly. Farrelly is never a sop for Hamilton’s sleight of hand glibness. Further, it throws into sharp relief the apposite manner in which he celebrates his subversion of trite idiomatic truisms. ‘Our father travelled Europe to narrow his mind.’ Brushes of Wildean aphorisms do not escape notice here.
Heaven forbid him parking his whisky-soiled pants next to Peter Cook in a seedy Soho dive. ‘Alcohol is the neurotic’s microscope.’ Hamilton’s, blood-shot, befuddled mind’s-eye magnifying all his yesterdays with distilled, inchoate fury. Reaching for the bottle, not the sky, this doomed, drunken Icarus had his wings melted by the stench of alcohol.
He wants to write fairy tales for grown-ups. In part, referring to his dysfunctional, near certifiable father and bowel movement obsessed mother he claims, ‘We have been tortured by monsters and know how to live among them.’ Diminished beyond redemption from the bottle, now fifty-eight, his internal monologue consists of bilious rants that seethe like the terminal suppurating lesions on his cirrhotic liver.
Immersed in his character with a conviction that even the lady in the front seat was only too willing to surrender her glass of wine to for the sake of lending additional dramatic thrust, Farrelly’s language punches with both barbed-wire, brutal immediacy and poetic rage against the banal. Hamilton, now gelded from his incandescent roar and brief sexual comforts wishes only for his quietus: silence – The Silence of Snow.
Compelling, needling and needy, Farrelly’s revelatory autopsy of a cauterised heart of darkness is intimidatingly implosive: stand well close.
Post-performance, Mark Farrelly asks that any in the audience, so inclined, might like to make a donation to Mind, the mental health charity.
Reviewed on 15 June 2017 and on tour | Image: Contributed