The charming Jack Studio Theatre in South East London excels at historic drama productions, and the The Silence of Snow: The Life of Patrick Hamilton is another fine string in their bow.
Mark Farrelly plays the great English writer Patrick Hamilton (who produced hit plays Rope (filmed by Hitchcock) and Gaslight, and wrote classic novels Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky, Hangover Square and The Slaves of Solitude) – as well as everyone else in his life in this energetic one-man show.
It could be a lot for one man to hold an audience’s attention for a great length of time, but Farrelly does give it an excellent go. He’s charismatic, and his energy and passion for his subject matter shine through wonderfully. He flits from character to character, holding one for just long enough, building humour and tension – and then popping on his glasses and returning to Patrick Hamilton to drive the narrative forward.
It’s a very thorough look into the life of Patrick Hamilton, an undeniably brilliant writer who struggled deeply with addiction and what we’d now identify as mental health issues. Hamilton was the epitome of a troubled genius, and this production explores his work at the same time as it explores his life.
One of the real strengths of this performance is the close relationship between the reality of Hamilton’s life and the fiction he wrote. This is especially apparent in the pieces reflecting Hamilton’s novel Hangover Square (a personal favourite of this reviewer).
There are some elements where the relationships are less apparent, and occasionally the mania deviates from the more subtle, considered madness to just shouting – and that feels too easy in such a smart, stylish piece.
There are laughs to be had, particularly when Farrelly is really enjoying himself in his impersonations of various characters and in his interaction with the audience; but there are also very sombre and haunting moments. The scene in which Hamilton undergoes shock therapy is cleverly done, but is hard to watch.
There’s a lot to really like in this production. Farrelly’s performance is a tour de force, and his talent is clear. The lighting and setting are evocative, bringing to life a tremendous atmosphere: I’m particularly drawn to the tube ride. It presents a really insightful view into Hamilton’s life, but also asks questions about our relationships with those we perceive to be closest to us.
Written by: Mark Farrelly
Director: Linda Marlowe
Booking Until: This show has completed its current run