The Silence of Snow: The Life of Patrick Hamilton has Mark Farrelly again bringing to life a forgotten icon, once more making real another troubled soul whose brilliance lit up lives before fizzling out in self-sought darkness, writes Michael Holland.
The play, written and performed by Farrelly, opens with novelist and playwright Hamilton going for ECT in a last gasp attempt at curbing his rampant alcoholism, but then stops and takes us back to the very beginning, a household where the father’s writing is fuelled by drink, where, in a drunken stupor, he admits to loving the boy but refuses to say so: ‘Love is for pansies and Germans’, he slurs at the young Patrick.
The father’s drinking and economic ineptitude meant the family were never as well off as they might have been, and this all combines to incite hatred for the father in the son. But his influence was strong and Patrick and his brother Bruce both became writers.
For Patrick literary and financial success came early, with novels now deemed ‘classic’ written in his twenties, but this sadly brought the problems with alcohol that his father had, therefore when his play Rope took off he boasted, ’the royalties will keep me in drink everyday’.
The Silence of Snow depicts Hamilton’s slow slide downwards into degradation and organ failure; his car crash relationships, affairs and marriages are drink sodden and soaked in violence, while his skill as a writer drip, drip, drips away to nothing. Most poignant for me was when he declaimed in despair, ‘Do you know that feeling when you’ve run out of options?’ If you’ve ever felt like that then you will know how low Patrick Hamilton’s life had sunk.
But out of that sadness comes Mark Farrelly’s exquisite writing, where lines become more than dialogue but conversational adornments; unexpected but intricate additions: ‘Nellie stayed with Bernard through thin and thin’ says everything you need to know about his parents’ marriage in just a few words.
Plus, out of the carnage that was Hamilton’s life, comes a performance that takes you not just into the mind of the man, but into his world. Into his soul. Farrelly throws himself into the character – Literally – and at the end the audience knew Patrick Hamilton very well. Farrelly made us feel his pain; it spoke to us, and if we were not careful it could follow us home.
The Silence of Snow: The Life of Patrick Hamilton is on at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, SE4 2DH until March 16th. Time: 7.30pm. Admission: £16, £13 concs. Phone: 0333 666 3366.