Howerd’s End

Mark Farrelly
The Golden Goose
The Golden Goose

Mark Farrelly as Dennis Heymer (foreground) and Simon Cartwright as Frankie Howerd , Howerd's End Credit: Jacky Summerfield
Simon Cartwright as Frankie Howerd (left) and Mark Farrelly as Dennis Heymer (right), Howerd's End Credit: Jacky Summerfield
Simon Cartwright as Frankie Howerd , Howerd's End Credit: Jacky Summerfield

Titter ye not, but somewhere in my teenage years, this catchphase of comic Frankie Howerd embedded itself in my psyche to become a personal idiom that slips out from time to time. Rather you than me, he might say, pulling one of his signature faces for added innuendo.

In Mark Farrelly's Howerd’s End, we get a glimpse of the man behind the pout.

Since Howerd was shy and secretive, and desperate to conceal his homosexuality, it would be incongruous to have a solo show in which he discloses his private reminiscences and inner thoughts, so for this subject, Farrelly has written a two-hander and adopts a device that shows us Howerd through the eyes of his long-time partner, Dennis Heymer.

Farrelly takes the role of Heymer who corners Simon Cartwright's Howerd into a series of flashbacks that reveal a side of Howerd the public never saw in his lifetime.

Insecure and promiscuous, unremittingly ashamed of his sexuality, plagued by stage fright and haunted by a tormented childhood, it is a feat of Farrelly's writing that we can see what attracted Heymer to the comedian.

As well as a biography, this is also a portrayal of a conflicted relationship and whilst we learn less about Heymer than we do about Howerd, we feel the pain of Heymer's decades-long uphill struggle with Howerd's ego and serial infidelities.

I remember seeing Howerd on television as a teenager in the '70s and the snippets of his stand-up in the show opened my eyes to just how unique a comedian he was for his time, and although his presence seemed ubiquitous to me, his popularity waned and revived across the decades, feeding his self-doubt and depression.

Farrelly clearly has a fascination with and a knack for putting unconventional, complex men on stage. As he did in Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope and The Silence of Snow: The Life of Patrick Hamilton, he has created a revealing and entertaining biography.

This play's short run at The Golden Goose has now finished, but, I say to you, nay, thrice nay!, don’t lose the chance to see it if Howerd’s End comes your way.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti