Mark Farrelly has created an enthralling and for many enlightening account of the life of the artist, film maker and homosexual rights activist Derek Jarman, one of the key persons as far as the public was concerned of the AIDS pandemic. It could be said he died in public, his second to last film, Blue,in 1993 was made when he had gone blind and consists of his thoughts while all the audience see is a blue screen. It works by one of those miracles. Jarman studied at the Slade, started work designing in the theatre, was the production designer on Ken Russell’s The Devils in 1971 and went on to make films of his own starting in 1976 with Sebastiane, an account of the life of that most homo erotic of saints, Sebastian whose death – he was shot with arrows – allowed countless painters to create nudes whose impact is anything but religious. He was only 52 when he died and the performance at Greenwich was held on what would have been his 80th birthday. His memorial could possibly be Prospect cottage, which he went to live in near Dungeness in 1986 when diagnosed with HIV, and the garden he created around it. But the world has changed. New pandemics have come. His films – Caravaggio, probably his most famous, won the Silver Bear for an outstanding single achievement at the 1986 Berlin film Festival – are possibly mostly forgotten although at least one, Jubilee, might well be resurrected this year on screens somewhere in the land. He introduced the actress Tilda Swinton , who went on to work with him several times, in Caravaggio, as well as the actor Sean Bean , while Dexter Fletcher, the actorand director, also made his name working for Jarman.
Farrelly, with the help of a roll of wallpaper, a sheet, a chair and a torch conjures up the man as his friends undoubtedly remember him – many of them came to the Greenwich performance and stayed, after the standing ovation, to pay tribute to Jarman’s memory. He holds the attention through for some 80 or more minutes, breaking the forth wall regularly, and somehow managing to people the stage with Jarman’s louche, promiscuous, mischievous – and in the end – deeply distressing world.
The tour dates follow. Farrelly has a fine track record – his previous solo work includes a terrific conjuring u of Quentin Crsip and he also wrote a fine two hander Howard’s End about the comedian Frankie Howerd. They were very good, this one is possibly even better.
Mark Farrelly: Derek Jarman.
Director: Sarah-Louise Young.
Tour Venues: 10-11 February – Garrick Theatre,Lichfield; 16 March – Rondo Theatre, Bath; 7-9 April – Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham; 7 May – Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham; 10 – 14 May – Brockley Jack Studio; 16 June – Quay Theatre, Quay Lane, Sudbury; 8 September – Ropery Hall, Barton Upon Humber.