book and lyrics by Sean J. Hume music and lyrics by Richard Silver.
Above the Stag Arch 17 Miles Street Vauxhall SW8 1RZ To 4 May 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Sun 6pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: William Russell 6 April.
No average Joe.
The relationship between the playwright Joe Orton and his lover and killer Kenneth Halliwell is endlessly fascinating. That the older, educated Halliwell transformed John Orton, whom he met at drama school, from a pretty boy into Joe Orton playwright is beyond doubt, but what he contributed to the plays themselves is anybody’s guess. Did Halliwell, a failed writer, also write any of them? Or did he just contribute ideas?
A deeply disturbed man, he found himself increasingly sidelined as Joe became a celebrity, a situation not helped by the fact Orton was rampantly promiscuous, a devotee of sex in every public lavatory in Islington in the do-what-you-please gay years before Aids.
The central scene where Joe rampages round the toilets of the town acquiring yet another man on another night is hilarious. Today, of course, Kenneth would not be kept in the shadows – Joe claimed to be a divorcee – but accepted as his boyfriend, his partner.
Whether, had that been the case in the 1960s, it would have changed anything is another matter. Orton, well directed by Tim McArthur, proves hugely entertaining, although towards the end, when the focus shifts from Joe to the hapless Halliwell, extremely well played by Andrew Rowney, the music fails to rise to the demands of the book.
Richard Dawes as Joe may not be the bit of Midlands rough one imagines from John Lahr’s biography Prick Up Your Ears, but he creates a wonderfully engaging devil-may-care, highly sexed boy-man relishing everything fame has brought, yet incapable of realising just how mentally sick Halliwell is.
There is strong support from Valerie Cutko as both Joe’s agent, Peggy Ramsay and Mrs Cordon, the couple’s bemused, friendly landlady, and Simon Kingsley as Kenneth Williams, their companion on a notorious holiday in Morocco. One not to miss.
Tina: Katie Brennan.
Mrs Cordon/Peggy Ramsay: Valerie Cutko.
Joe Orton: Richard Dawes.
Ensemble: Danielle Irvine.
Kenneth Williams: Simon Kingsley.
Ensemble/Dance Captain: Jordan Langford.
Trevor: Robert McNeilly.
Kenneth Halliwell: Andrew Rowney.
Director: Tim McArthur.
Designer: Andrew Holton.
Lighting: Chris Withers.
Musical Director: Chris Huntley.
Choreographer: Phillip Aiden.
Costume: Lydia Hardiman.