BEHIND the lugubrious mask of comedian Frankie Howerd was an equally unhappy and mournful person hiding from public view.
That’s the view of playwright and performer Mark Farrelly whose latest production, Howerd’s End, brings to life the comic genius but also the secretive life of the Yorkshire born entertainer.
Six years in the making and currently on a nationwide tour, Howerd’s End comes to Delph’s Millgate Arts Centre on Saturday, November 6.
There are laughs aplenty in the two-handed, 75-minute production but as Mark told the Independent: “If you want to see Frankie Howerd why not watch You Tube?
“I didn’t want to make a straightforward tribute show because I felt it wasn’t challenging enough or for me interesting thing to do,” explained Mark.
“Yes, you still get to see Frankie doing stand-up, but the play is about his relationship with Dennis Heymer.
“Dennis and Frankie were a couple for 34 years but no one knew about him. Frankie wanted to keep him a complete and utter secret.
“I became fascinated by the guy in the shadow and what life must have been like for him having to deny his own existence,” added Mark, who portrays Heymer while Simon Cartwright stars as Frankie.
“I wanted to write a piece with lots of laughs in it while surprising the audience by telling them a story they never knew existed. Or knew very little about.
“Frankie was not a happy man off stage. I don’t think he was ever comfortable in his own skin and being who he was.
“His act was often drawing on who he was in life. And it struck me he kept the relationship with Dennis a secret because it might affect or even destroy his career.
“I sense very strongly Frankie was not comfortable with his own life and didn’t want to explore it.
“There are lots of laughs and scene changes and the play covers a lot of ground. But I also think it has a lot of depth to it and I hope touches your heart.
“Ultimately, it is a love story, a very unusual one but a very powerful one.”
Mark will be making his third visit to Millgate following the staging of his previous productions: Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope and The Silence of Snow-the life of Patrick Hamilton.
“It is a gorgeous auditorium even before it was beautifully renovated,” said Mark. “The audiences are very loyal and very responsive and its beautifully run by Michael Powis and Tim Newbold who are a great pair of human beings.
“Howerd’s End has had a very bumpy genesis to make it happen but hopefully people will think it is worth it.”
• For tickets visit https://tinyurl.com/5zazrr4c