- Allan Radcliffe
- 16 October 2008
Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 16 & Fri 17 Oct
For many people growing up gay in the 1970s, Quentin Crisp provided the only tangible image of what it meant to be queer to infiltrate the mainstream. The witty author and raconteur who worked as a prostitute and artist’s model, before achieving widespread acclaim in his 60s with his insightful memoir The Naked Civil Servant and its subsequent popular television adaptation, created seismic political tremors simply by his steadfast refusal to conform.
Experimental theatre director Robert Pacitti was one of those children who grew up in a household where The Naked Civil Servant ‘was the only queer thing in my parents’ house, bar me of course, although even I didn’t know that then.’ Later, seeing John Hurt in the television adaptation, he realised there was an alternative legacy to the civil rights movement, indirectly inspired by Crisp and his work.
In 1996 Pacitti travelled to New York to meet Crisp, then in his late 80s, and used recordings, Super 8 film, slides and writings from this meeting to create Civil, a theatrical collage exploring themes familiar from Crisp’s memoir, as Pacitti puts it: ‘Resistance; loneliness; not necessarily having to chuck bricks in order to create real change; that point where the private and the public collide.’ Originally a six-person work, Pacitti overhauled this ‘volatile, mischeivous’ live work to create a solo piece. ‘Civil was a tough show to make initially, and even though it is quite mannered it’s still a hard work to perform, emotionally, physically, and in psychic terms – there’s a lot of ghosts on stage.’
Having toured extensively with this work Pacitti has now handed on the torch to performer Richard Eton for a new version to be performed at Glasgay! Thus, the legacy of Crisp’s work – a crucial theme in Civil – is carried on via another person’s interpretation. ‘The annoying thing about Dicky is that he’s older than me but looks considerably younger – I hate that,’ says Pacitti. ‘When I decided to replace myself in Civil Dicky was my only choice. He performs it beautifully.’