Mark Farrelly as Quentin Crisp
© Steve Ullathorne

It is a brave actor who counters the double threat of the subject himself, so vivid still in our memories, and John Hurt's brilliant performance on film in The Naked Civil Servant, to give us yet another Quentin Crisp.

Mark Farrelly is undaunted and provides an hour-long collection of wise saws, bitchy remarks and autobiographical anecdotes that sound fresh enough but lead nowhere. Briskly imported from the Edinburgh Fringe, the show looks a little thin as a stand-alone entertainment, but it's followed into the studio by the acclaimed "one-man-and-six-guitars" show, The Lion, each night on the same stage.

Farrelly's Crisp has the vocal, slightly out-of-body airiness tinged with malice of Danny La Rue. For his Soho days of prostitution and life class sessions he sports a mauve-streaked thatch that brings to mind Mollie Sugden in Are You Being Served?. Once he's a "stately homo of England" translated to New York, the hair-do is much more serious, though no more convincing: Katharine Whitehorn with a Billy Fury quiff.

The actor, nudged along by his director, Linda Marlowe, makes the most of this striking dissimilarity to the unusual solicitor's son christened Denis Charles Pratt. And there's even a spot of hilarious "alienation" when the telephone rings after he's answered it (an oldie, but a goodie). But the text covers familiar territory in the Chelsea boarding house, the Rockingham club, the fruitless quest for "a big dark man," the chimera of happiness, the Zen-like serenity of notoriety as a substitute for any meaningful success.

Crisp, rather like Gilbert and George with an extra flounce, was his own complete work of art. Farrelly we roll along with an entertaining fake version, using a complicit audience member as a Q&A stooge before concluding that, like Madonna, our tawdry old hero has made such a fetish of being outré that you expect nothing else, and his act, as he's the first to admit, has become routinely routine.

Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope runs at the St James Theatre Studio until 7 September