REVIEW: Resident Alien (The Basement)

Roy Ward shows devotion to character and history.

Crisp [by Sharu Delilkan]

Roy Ward shows devotion to  character and history.
Roy Ward shows devotion to character and history.

We enjoyed a lovely warm theatrical experience tonight – a charming, threadbare, Thatcher-ite, and acerbic view of the world from the portrayal of an old queen with no will or wit to be ordinary or dated.

It was a delight to see this multi-award winning one-hander being performed impeccably by Roy Ward in The Basement’s intimate upstairs studio space. Having previously seen Ward in the Auckland Theatre Company’s Crucible almost six years ago, witnessing his debut solo performance was nothing short of a treat. He basically embodied Quentin Crisp and all of the traits of the infamous 90-year-old ‘Professor of Style’. Against the backdrop of a world of prejudice against homosexuality and a life lived by simple principles, Ward’s portrayal of the ageing and palsied gay icon displayed Crisp’s wit and charm without sympathy but with true devotion to character and history.

The playwright Tim Fountain’s witty script with amazing one-liners must have been a joy to perform. His knowledgeable character-study of this gay raconteur gave us as audience members an intimate insight into Crisp’s vivid character. There was no doubt that the audience was captivated. This was evident by the fact that we remained so for 2, 1-hour halves of a 1-queen show, which highlighted the subtlety and skill of both Ward and Fountain.

The Basement studio was the perfect foil for Jessika Verryt’s re-creation of Crisp’s “famously filthy” New York apartment. Which complemented Verryt’s great attention to detail that unveiled as the play unfolded. Hanna Randall’s costume design is equally fabulous, transforming him from his grubby bedclothes into his chic “going out clothes” because he is expecting visitors. My only niggle here, which is really being pernickety, is that his hat could have been a bit more colourful given his reputation for everything ‘stylish’.

The play is riddled with laugh-out-loud humour but it was not all “Mr Selfridge” analysis of a fading star, as portrayed in the first half. I enjoyed the second half even more with Crisp’s septuagenarian lectures on how life should be and the dangers of politics, marriage, love and commitment. It reminded me of my own grandparents’ rants and advice but tinged with mischievous, witty and well-thought-out pearls of wisdom.

The sound and lighting seemed incidental to Ward’s performance but that was probably a great decision because it didn’t add or detract, focusing the audience on the words and sentiments themselves.

Above all I really enjoyed the show for its simplicity, cleverness, wit and charm. Who knows I may go again to see it just for all the truths I heard in the second half. My only question is: “Why is the season so short?” More people should be given the opportunity to see this – so go while you can…

Resident Alien plays at The Basement until 24 August. More details see The Basement.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe

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