Preview: Denton and Me
Autobiography meets a sometimes overlooked icon
This article is from 2016.
Denton and Me blends the 1940s with a modern day autobiography, exploring the relationship between performer Sam Rowe and writer Denton Welch (1915–1948). Playwright Rowe came across Welch’s journals in 2011 and recognises echoes of his own life within them, using Welch’s obsession for land-boy Eric in 1944 to parallel his own adventures, and sense of isolation, in contemporary London.
Rowe remembers being ‘blown away’ by Denton’s writing when he first read the diaries, and praises the way they reflect the ‘underlining continuing relevance of Welch’s emotional and psychological insights today’. For the play, he enlisted the help of designer Colin O’Hara, whose work he greatly admires: ‘his knowledge of unusual and obscure art and design means he’ll always come up with something very original.’
Denton Welch was formally trained as a painter (he studied art at Goldsmith’s in London) but was just as talented a writer. A fascinating figure in queer and literary history, he was a favourite of both Alan Bennett and William S Burroughs. He struggled with ill health following a tragic car accident, and died at only 33.
The multi-layered production promises to be a powerful exploration of the vulnerability uncovered in Welch’s writing, a journey into how modern life can be reflected in the past and a poignant adaptation of the journals’ intensity, while, as Rowe observes, revealing how ‘our society doesn’t find it very easy to talk about vulnerability’ in a compassionate and thoughtful production.
Summerhall, 3–28 Aug, 3.05pm, £8.