Freddie, Ted and the Death of Joe Orton review at London Theatre Workshop – ‘an idiosyncratic homage’
The 50th anniversary passing of the Sexual Offences Act has resulted in a lot of interesting new work. 1967 was a major turning point for gay men in England but it was also the year that playwright Joe Orton was bludgeoned to death by his long term lover Kenneth Halliwell.
Playwright Don Cotter uses the juxtaposition of these two incidents to tell the story of lovers Freddie and Ted. Middle-aged Freddie is urbane yet insecure, eking out a living on a small family trust fund while haunted by the ghost of his lover who died at Dunkirk. Ted is younger and keen to experience the Swinging Sixties on his own terms.
Realising that the relationship may be over, Freddie’s mental health deteriorates and he turns to his favourite playwright Orton for inspiration and resolution.
Freddie, Ted and the Death of Joe Orton is Cotter’s idiosyncratic homage to the playwright. Although the plot is original, the characters reflect the weird and wonderful creatures that populate Orton’s plays. Cotter’s play is ultimately tragic, but the sensitive performances from Robert Styles as Freddie and Eoin McAndrew as Ted are overshadowed.
Perry Meadowcroft as Glenn manspreads menacingly, in a manner reminiscent of Sloane or the Ruffian on the Stair, while Helen Sheals is hilarious as liberal-minded Dilys, an amalgam of every woman Orton ever wrote.
Ray Rackham’s shrewd direction attempts to redress this imbalance but while much of Cotter’s dialogue is spot-on, mimicking the lethal cut and thrust of Orton’s own, his narrative choices less sharp.
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