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Review: Ward as Crisp is spot on

Thu 22 Aug 2013 In: Performance View at NDHA

Resident Alien: Quentin Crisp explains it all By Tim Fountain Starring Roy Ward Basement Theatre Studio, AucklandAugust 20-24th Nearly all his life Quentin Crisp existed somewhere between reality and a dream. Beaten down in his earlier years by a world which abused and belittled him, learning to live by his wits and expecting little or nothing from anyone else, he also inhabited a space somewhere between deep cynicism and world-weary wisdom. He was his own creation, frail and flowery on the outside but with a strong yet supple core of self-belief that enabled him to roll with the punches and to quietly carry on. At Auckland's Basement Theatre last night Roy Ward got Crisp spot on, helped by excellent writing, minimalist self-direction and a setting that enveloped us from the moment we headed out of the winter rain, up the steep shabby stairs, past the graffiti and detritus of decades, through a battered door and walked across a squalid one-room New York apartment to take our seats. The tiny Basement Studio was perfect... shabby, intimate, almost claustrophobic. Inside we shared company with a man crafted from constrained gestures, sly looks, quivering fingers, silences and inaudible sighs. As he picked his way around and over the functional clutter - not a purely decorative item in sight if you don't count the "stately old homo" himself - Ward's Crisp drew us further and further into his world. Delivering at first a series of self-consciously witty and urbane diatribes on existence, Princess Di, relationships, survival, politics and power, film goddesses, housekeeping and a host of other topics carefully stitched together by author Tim Fountain, Crisp gently descends into darker places, more fatalistic and allowing faded glimpses of a lifetime of emotional scars and wounds. And yet, right to the end, he somehow remains optimistic. There's always the chance of a free lunch tomorrow. The play is a proven gem, Ward is spot on, the staging superb. This production is a seamless blending of subject, author, actor and setting. We are in the company of a self-confessed sad, bitter old queen who stops short of being unpleasant and earns our respect. Without emotional pyrotechnics or overt eccentricities Ward's Crisp draws us in, sometimes eyeballing individual audience members who are only a metre or so away. His performance is so quietly powerful that I found myself wondering what it would be like with just, say, four or five 'guests' instead of an audience. It would possibly be overwhelming. This is one of three gay-themed 2013 stage productions which must, repeat: must, be encored at Auckland's forthcoming Pride 2014 Festival. If we don't see Crisp, Black Faggot and K' Rd Strip back for Pride then heads should roll! - Jay Bennie Jay Bennie - 22nd August 2013    

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Thursday, 22nd August 2013 - 12:25am

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