When I performed my solo play Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope at Millgate Arts Centre last autumn, I immediately knew it was a venue I’d come back to. It’s a beautiful space, with an intimacy perfect for solo work. Tim and Michael are wonderfully supportive, and best of all the audience is engaged, enthusiastic and lively. My kind of place.
I’m returning on Friday 1st November with my solo play The Silence of Snow: The Life of Patrick Hamilton. By the age of 25, Hamilton (1904 – 1962) was an internationally famous playwright thanks to his gripping thriller Rope (filmed by Hitchcock), and a critical success with novels like The Midnight Bell, his deeply touching saga about lives of quiet desperation in Soho publand. He went on to write many other hits, including the play Gaslight, which gives us the term ‘gaslighting’, meaning to twist another person’s sense of reality.
But underneath his tailored veneer, Hamilton was lugging around more unprocessed baggage than Heathrow. His childhood (egomaniac father, smothering mother) had dealt him hugely conflicting messages about love, and like many humans he’d struggled into adulthood with no great affection for himself. This set the scene for a life of emotional chaos, with Hamilton time and again pursuing women who could not return his love, including a Soho prostitute, and two wives who ‘shared’ his life simultaneously.
Of course, it was always doomed because Hamilton did not love himself, and chose booze (“the neurotics’ microscope” he called it) to blot out this truth. Hamilton’s fiction (the riveting Hangover Square, he immensely moving Slaves of Solitude) is often veiled autobiography, and underneath the humour and dazzling verbal pyrotechnics, one senses a man desperately trying to understand himself before some final cataclysm strikes.
I’ve come to love Patrick. This performance will be the 77th, and to deliver such a torrent of great words (many of them Patrick’s own) is a joy for an actor. My director Linda Marlowe also helped me to create a restless, physically demanding piece of theatre. No sitting in a chair gently reminiscing about the past! This is a life acted out in the present tense.
Patrick’s talent blazed for only about fifteen years, but sometimes our minor literary figures have important things to teach us. This is what inspired me to have Patrick confide to the audience near the end of the play: “The great problem with life is that you can get from one end of it to the other without ever feeling that another human being ever truly knew you”.
Now here’s the clincher, and why I want you to be there on November 1st. Yes, it’s a vibrant piece of theatre with incredible reviews (**** from The Times, The Spectator, What’s On Stage and many, many others), but the play also raises money for MIND, the mental health charity. I’m sure you know someone who struggles with mental health, maybe you do yourself. I’ve lost three friends to suicide. The play is dedicated to one of them, Tim Welling. He took his life not long after kindly reading a first draft of my play. It was a tragedy that makes me burn with passionate determination to know myself, and everyone in my life, with every fathom of depth possible. The Silence of Snow encourages you to do exactly the same, by depicting the thrilling, funny, tragic story of a man who could not. I know Tim’s spirit will be somewhere in the beautiful Millgate Arts Centre on November 1st. I hope you will be too. Let’s share something together – and shine a light of hope for mental health.
The Silence of Snow will be performed at the Millgate Arts Centre on Friday 1 November 2019. Tickets from Ticketsource.