Tony Collins - WEEKEND NOTES
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The life of brilliant alcoholic writer told in one-man play
I have to confess to not knowing a great deal about Patrick Hamilton and the various novels and plays which he wrote during his career. So full credit to writer and actor Mark Farrelly for not only taking on the challenge of telling the Patrick Hamilton story but for making such a brilliant job of it. The Silence of Snow: The Life of Patrick Hamilton, to give this one-man play its full title, is an outstanding piece of work that crams so much emotion and sheer acting skill into the little more than an hour that the drama takes to unfold on stage at the Lichfield Garrick theatre in Staffordshire.
Mark Farrelly as playright Patrick Hamilton. Credit Steve Ullathorne
The Silence of Snow was performed in the Garrick's intimate studio, and this setting gave Mark the perfect opportunity to get up close and almost personal with his audience. The story begins at the outset of the 1950s in an electro-therapy clinic where alcoholic Hamilton, whose plays Rope and Gas Light were later turned into major films starring James Stewart and Ingrid Bergman respectively, is awaiting his final session of electroconvulsive treatment. Mark then proceeds to tell the story of Hamilton's turbulent life, warts and all, starting in Brighton as a 14-year-old schoolboy at the end of the First World War. We then follow the intimate details of his chequered life and career, from obvious highs such as the publication of his first play, Rope, which brought him success and fame, to being run over and badly injured by a drunk driver.
Mark Farrelly gives an intense portrayal of playright Patrick Hamilton. Credit Steve Ullathorne
Throughout it all Mark literally throws himself into the role, from being knocked over by the drink driver's car to being punched to the ground by his brother. The play, which blends together original writing with extracts from Hamilton's finest works, also deals with the coldness of his father Bernard - who he plays himself along with all the various other characters - and both of his seemingly unhappy marriages. It all goes towards Hamilton's assessment of a 'bloody awful life' as mind and soul are continually tortured by self-doubt and self-loathing as he strives to find happiness and meaning in his life. His inner struggles are despite, or maybe somehow because of, the success afforded by his plays and classic novels such as The Slaves of Solitude, Hangover Square, and Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky. It all makes for a fascinating insight into one of the great English writers of the inter-war years.
One man show merits 5 star rating. Credit Steve Ullathorne
The play, which was directed by actress Linda Marlowe, was followed by a post-show discussion with Mark. He said he was attracted to doing a play about Patrick Hamilton because he was a "terrific" writer whom not enough people knew about. But Mark said he was also really gripped by the way Hamilton let his life slide into alcoholism and how it happened. The audience donated £220 to MIND.There was also a collection of £220 from the audience in aid of mental health charity MIND after Mark dedicated the production to a friend who was the first person to read the script of The Silence of Snow, but who committed suicide before seeing its first performance.
Rating: 5 out of 5