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BWW REVIEW: The Truth Beneath Quentin Crisp's Constructed Image Is Laid Bare In RESIDENT ALIEN


Thursday 14th July 2016, 8pm, Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, Chippendale

A lesser known side of the enigmatic writer, actor and raconteur Quentin Crisp is exposed in Tim Fountain's RESIDENT ALIEN. Multi Award winning actor Paul Capsis, who is himself a very unique individual, is wonderful as he takes on the task of capturing a side of Crisp that most people never saw.

Director Gary Abrahams has created an intimate experience which draws the audience in to a 'private' audience with Crisp in his filthy room in an East Village boarding house. Costume and set designer Romanie Harper has recreated Crisp's room filled with unread books and magazines; a floor littered with shredded paper; a small sink and gas ring; and surprisingly tidy dressing table that all sit around the narrow twin bed that is covered in filthy sheets. A rear drape with an image of stacks of boxes and books reinforces the image that Crisp lived in cramped squalor.

Paul Capsis as Quentin Crisp (Photo supplied)

As the houselights dim, it becomes apparent Crisp is watching TV, in bed, under the grotty sheet. When he emerges he is aware he is being watched as he talks direct to the audience, at times picking out individuals to direct his comments and opinions. Over the course of the show he weaves through a range of topics and reinforces a number of his well-known opinions, from the contemporary ease of fame, Princess Diana, music and housekeeping. In grubby dressing gown and soiled bandages Capsis exposes a reality Crisp kept hidden from the public that remember him in velvet suits, scarves and dipped hat atop his quaffed, dyed locks.

Paul Capsis as Quentin Crisp (Photo Supplied)

Capsis shares Crisp's vulnerability in the honesty that underlies the created image which he dons in the expectation of a lunch engagement. Aged with makeup and an impressive blue rinse wig, by Jurga Celikiene, Capsis transforms into the 90 year old effeminate queen who had maintained a trademark image with the aid of 18 years of hand-me-downs. He delivers a nuanced performance with an astute use of silence and physical mannerisms that break up the monologue of observations and attitudes. He maintains a Crisp's clear, refinEd English accent reinforcing his status as a "Resident Alien" even after living in New York for 18 years.

Paul Capsis as Quentin Crisp (Photo supplied)

RESIDENT ALIEN is a wonderful glimpse into the life of one of the forerunners of self expression who had the guts to create an image of himself that suited who he was, not what society wanted him to be. This work exposes that images aren't necessarily reality and how you enjoy life is greatly affected by how you chose to view it. Paul Capsis' performance as the opinionated writer is a must see regardless of how familiar you may be with the underlying subject.

Paul Capsis as Quentin Crisp (Photo supplied)


Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, Chippendale, Sydney

12 - 23 July 2016

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