Review: Jarman, Jack Studio Theatre

Mark Farelly works hard to bring Jarman to life in his one-man show at the Jack Studio Theatre

“I need to take you to some strange, possibly queer, places”

Mark Farrelly’s Jarman certainly impresses with the energy it brings to a stripped back Jack Studio Theatre, just a chair and a couple of props there to help bring this biography of Derek Jarman to life. And as he rattles through the major events of this hugely creative life, it’s hard not to be swept along with it.

The definition of a polymath, Jarman turned his hand to whatever took his fancy – design, filmmaking, painting, writing, gardening and crucially, gay rights activism. And Farrelly conjures much of that complexity, running through anecdotal vignettes sprinkled with some amusing impressions (Ken Russell, John Gielgud) as he rose from unassuming beginnings.

Contracting HIV was inevitably a massive turning point and Farrelly spares us none of the anguish of what that was like in the late twentieth century, wide-eyed sincerity asking us to share that pain and also remember its continuing relevance today. Thus from the relative lightness of the gentle audience participation for some, something more challenging emerges.

Jarman doesn’t always quite make the case for its subject though. Farrelly’s deep love and respect is evident but I wonder if it would be so apparent to the casual viewer. The audience has to work hard as it is and Sarah-Louise Young’s production is relatively uncompromising, with little interest in holding our hand to a place of understanding about the man. Which is probably quite apt in the end, but somewhat frustrating regardless.

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Photo: @j_bella_s
Jarman is booking at the Jack Studio Theatre until 14th May

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