My Festival Highlights Challenge – Day Three

Mark Farrelly and Linda Marlowe after Quentin Crisp at Gilded Balloon

Mark Farrelly and Linda Marlowe after Quentin Crisp at Gilded Balloon

I’m in the final stretch of my #FHChallenge, having now seen two-thirds of Festival Highlights nine 2014 offerings and aiming to polish off the final three back-to-back today.

Mounted as part of the Free Fringe Festival at Laughing Horse @ Espionage on Victoria Street, The Silence of Snow is a one-man play, written and performed (in a remarkably intimate space) by Mark Farrelly, about the playwright and novelist Patrick Hamilton. It’s a tragic story, powerfully performed by Mark, about a gifted writer who squanders his talent and drinks himself to death. Apart from having seen Rope and Gaslight (on stage and screen) and an adaptation of his novel Hangover Square, I knew little of Hamilton before seeing The Silence of Snow, but am keen to read his novels now.


A woman in the row behind me is moved to tears. At the curtain call, Mark invites the audience to his other Fringe production, another one-man show also directed by Linda Marlowe, Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope, at the Gilded Balloon. “I’ve already seen it,” shouts one man. “It’s brilliant!”


On the Free Fringe, no tickets are sold but audiences can leave optional contributions. Mark is donating all proceeds from The Silence of Snow  to mental health charity Mind. I drop a tenner in the collection pot and grab a top-up coffee en route to my next show…


Lizzie Roper is the Queen of Spleen in Julie Burchill: Absolute Cult, Tim Fountain’s follow-up to his 2002 play Julie Burchill Is Away. Twelve years on, we find the notorious columnist in ‘managed decline’, still consuming drugs and money in abundance as she contemplates a stint on Celebrity Big Brother to shore up her finances. Lizzie tears up the stage at Gilded Balloon in this “stand-up drama” monologue, under Mike Bradwell’s direction.


Fifteen minutes after Julie Burchill, it’s curtain up on the next show. Mark Farrelly has swapped his prim Patrick Hamilton waistcoat and spectacles for lurid make-up and a magnificently quiffed, henna wig to play Quentin Crisp, two floors up at the Gilded Balloon.


As with Hamilton and Burchill, this is a tour de force solo performance with many beautifully written lines to savour. It’s interesting seeing these three plays about three literary figures, back-to-back. Though in real life, Hamilton, Burchill and Crisp came from very different worlds and backgrounds, there are many shared themes and troubled character traits. Talent is no protection against loneliness and despair.


I’m amazed at Mark Farrelly’s ability to perform his two shows in such a short space of time. But even more amazed at the stamina of stage manager Sarah Quinney, who I’ve been chasing after today. She’s managing all three of the shows I saw today, plus Siddhartha, the Musical, which she must get to next at Assembly Rooms. Four shows a day, starting within six hours in four different venues… Sarah has been working at the Edinburgh Fringe for more than 15 years and reckons this is a new record for her. Can anyone top it?


For me, there are more interviews to transcribe, blogs to write and copy to edit, but that’s my Festival Highlights Challenge successfully completed. The challenge continues daily for Sarah, Mark, Lizzie and all the rest of the fabulous Festival Highlights team.


Are you up to the nine-show #FHChallenge? Lots of FREE tickets up for grabs! Click here to take the challenge at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe.


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