Q&A with Mark Farrelly: “Derek Jarman is all about the possible: don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen yourself”

Jarman, a vibrant new solo play, written and performed by Mark Farrelly (Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope, Howerd’s End), will celebrate the life of Derek Jarman and will see significant figures who knew him to reunite to speak about his lasting impact. Film-maker, painter, gardener at Prospect Cottage, activist and writer, Derek Jarman lived an extraordinary life up until his death in 1994 as a result of AIDS. Jarman is directed by renowned cabaret performer Sarah-Louise Young who will be bringing Jarman back into being for a passionate, daring reminder of the courage it takes to truly live while you’re alive.

Jarman will be performed at the Greenwich Theatre on Monday 31st January on what would have been his 80th birthday, the production is raising money for the Terrence Higgins Trust.

We speak to Mark Farrelly to find out more.

How would you describe just how important Derek Jarman’s contribution is? 

There’s never been anyone quite like Derek Jarman. Film-maker, painter, writer, activist, gardener and all-round inspiration for the joy of creativity. He’s an immensely influential figure across so many different disciplines, and encouraged a playful breaking of the rules. He worked outside the mainstream (being paid a token fee of £10 for directing one of his films!) but still touched the lives of everyone from Tilda Swinton to the Pet Shop Boys. And people like me, who never met him. Derek Jarman is all about the possible: don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen yourself. That’s a fantastic legacy.

How does this production speak to modern filmmaking, and queer activism today?

You get to see the joyous, improvisational way that Derek put his films together in this production. In terms of activism, Derek was fearless. He was even arrested for protesting for gay equality as recently as the 1990s. But his bravest piece of activism was to declare himself HIV+ in the late eighties, when it was seen as career-ending to say such a thing. Derek didn’t care: “I detest secrecy, that’s the real virus”. Today’s struggles are very real, but everyone should take a little time to explore Derek’s story and witness the nightmarish difficulties he withstood with cheerful heart.

What impact do you hope this production will have on the audience?

I want people to discover a truer, more vibrant sense of themselves. As Derek says at the start of the play: “You are living ever less brave lives”. Here was a man who only had 52 years of life (dying of AIDS in 1994), yet what he crammed into them is astonishing. I hope audiences will feel stirred into living more bravely, stop elaborately murdering time and grasp each precious moment.

In consideration of his politics, what do you think Derek Jarman would have to say about the state of affairs today? 

I think he would approve of many of the equalities which have come about, but would also feel that there is so much more still to do. I’m sure he would be proud of the work of his friend Peter Tatchell, who is coming to watch the performance at Greenwich Theatre on 31st January.

Tell us more about the Terrence Higgins Trust. 

It’s an incredible organisation that helps with education and support for HIV and AIDS. It seeks to end the transmission of HIV in the UK; to support and empower people living with HIV, to eradicate stigma and discrimination around the illness. This year is its 40th birthday and it needs our support! I’m holding an audience collection for them after every performance of “Jarman”, because after the gala performance at Greenwich on the date of what would have been Derek’s 80th birthday, the production is heading off on tour all over the UK.

Jarman is written and performed by Mark Farelly and the gala performance will take place on Monday 31st January at 7.30pm at Greenwich Theatre. The show will then embark on a UK Tour.

Find out more and book your tickets here.