With the right director, you’re not entirely alone on a solo show

Actor Mark Farrelly had never written or performed a solo show before. At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, he’s premiering two: The Silence of the Snow and Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope. He turned to fellow actor and solo veteran Linda Marlowe, whose many solo successes include The World’s Wife and Berkoff’s Women, to direct both.


Mark Farrelly (in Quentin make-up) and Linda Marlowe

Mark Farrelly (in Quentin make-up) and Linda Marlowe

Linda: We first in Edinburgh back in 2003, when Mark came to see one of my shows. And then we met in Edinburgh again two years ago. I was doing my one-woman show Miss Havisham’s Expectations at Gilded Balloon and he was on just before me in a Roy Smiles play called The Lad Himself.


Mark: We happened to be sharing a dressing room, so I would see Linda get changed into Miss Havisham. I’d enjoyed that and her other solo work and that’s when I thought, ‘I want some of that’. So one day I said, ‘You don’t happen to direct, do you?’ And she said, ‘Oh, here’s my CV!’.


Linda: I have directed a lot – I even won an award for directing – but I just think of myself as an actress who directs sometimes. Like with acting, with directing, I particularly love doing one-person shows.


I’ve directed A View from the Bridge and Strindberg and other shows where there are bigger casts, but I get a bit frightened when there are lots of people and worried about how I’m going to move them around the stage. With a one-person show, it’s a very concentrated, one-to-one relationship between director and actor, and I find myself being more inventive. I’ve done an awful lot of solo shows myself, of course, and I’ve had directors who have helped me so much. You always feel very close to the director; you need them so much because there’s nobody else to help.


Mark: When it comes to solo shows, Linda is without doubt one of the best in the business. She knows exactly what she’s doing. And I’ve been proved right. She’s very clear, very strict – in a good way – and always trying to serve the audience in how she directs: what will surprise them, what will keep their attention. This is first time I’ve done solo shows and I wanted to be in safe hands.


Linda: It can be terrifying being the only person on the stage. It’s still totally scary to me, even after all the solo shows I’ve done!


Mark: I don’t find it scary in the sense that I have been very well drilled from a directorial point of view so I know what I’m doing. I think you find any acting performance scary if you’re not well directed and you’re just trying to wing it. But when you know moment to moment, beat to beat, pause to pause, line to line what you’re meant to be doing, you’re too busy focusing on that to worry. The other thing is when you’ve got some really good writing – like I have with Quentin Crisp and Patrick Hamilton – and you want to give it to people, then that’s a joy. That’s why you do solo work.
The Silence of Snow is at Laughing Horse @ Espionage (Free Festival), 1 to 24 August at 12.00 (runs 1 hour). Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope is at Gilded Balloon, 30 July to 25 August at 15:00 (runs 1 hour 10 minutes). At this year’s festival, Linda Marlowe is also performing in two-hander Night Bus, which she has co-written with co-star Sarah-Louise Young. It’s at Pleasance Courtyard, 30 July to 25 August at 13:00 (runs 1 hour).

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