Jarman ★★★★ Greenwich Theatre | January 31, 2022

Mark Farrelly gives an astonishing and heartfelt portrayal of the quietly spoken and erudite Derek Jarman forever clad in a boiler suit. This particular performance had an added poignancy as it took place on what would have been Jarman's 80th birthday. At the beginning we are told that "all adventures begin in a garden" but along the way Farrelly takes us to “some strange gay places”, and through Sarah-Louise Young's subtle direction we are transported from sleazy public toilets to the pizazz of the gay club scene. All the while, Farrelly gives insights into Jarman's life and most famous works. Starting as a stage designer with a disastrous production of Don Giovanni directed by John Gielgud, Jarman's creative genius soon flowered as a filmmaker coming to the fore in such works as Sebastiane. For the remainder of his all-too-short life Jarman was trying to achieve his goal of rebuilding 'The Emerald City' and fittingly things will end in a garden, the wonderfully remote Prospect Cottage at Dungeness. In this presentation the cavernous stage lacked the much needed intimacy that will be present in the smaller venues on tour. However, with only a plastic chair, a roll of brown paper, a couple lengths of fabric and a torch, Farrelly, like Jarman, succeeds in stimulating the imagination. The simple props become amazingly transformed and they, plus the frequently poetic writing, incorporating quotations from Shakespeare and Donne, create Jarman's world and his dreams. Farrelly's eyes twinkle as he impishly darts around the stage, but we all know where this is leading. Things naturally darken with Jarman's HIV diagnosis, but in the scene following his tragically early death, the audience is encouraged to 'be astonishing.' Jarman the filmmaker, artist, writer, activist and gardener certainly had that capacity to astonish, and this quality is more than shared by Mark Farrelly in what is an insightful piece of writing and an exceptional performance.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo courtesy of CNC.

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