Tell us about Freddie, Ted, and the Death of Joe Orton and the character you play.
Freddie, Ted, and the Death of Joe Orton is about what happens to a relationship when the professional future of one partner is threatened by the other’s past. It deals with concealment on many levels – the little white lies and the darker half-truths – and how we never quite know who those closest to us really are. I play Freddie, a middle-aged man in a long-term relationship with Ted (Eoin McAndrew) – a young aspiring musician. Everything is going well until Ted receives a letter inviting him to a life-changing interview…
What appeals to you most about this play by Don Cotter?
It is a really neat chamber-piece for four actors with all the ingredients of a traditional West End thriller. The characters are well drawn and the comedy is skilfully juxtaposed against an increasing underlying menace. The action covers a three-year period in the mid 1960’s so there is a lot of period detail woven into the narrative.
How does Joe Orton feature in this play?
Freddie, Ted, and the Death of Joe Orton is not an autobiographical dramatisation of Orton’s life, nor are Freddie and Ted simply substitutes for Joe and Kenneth Halliwell (Orton’s lover), although there are parallels. Similarly, Ted’s work companion, Dilys (Helen Sheals), and her grandson, Glenn (Perry Meadowcroft), can be compared to characters in Orton’s plays. You could say this work holds a mirror up to Joe’s life and his plays so that what emerges is an Orton-esque spirit. Also, the play concludes in 1967 – the year homosexuality was partially decriminalised and Orton was murdered by Halliwell.
What are you enjoying most about working with the London Theatre Workshop (LTW)?
I have been an admirer of LTW for a number of years but purely as a spectator. This winter, I find myself climbing the stairs to rehearsals as a proud new company member. The thing that has always struck me most about LTW is the unique feeling of ‘family’ that Ray instils among his troupe of loyal and trusty followers. He gets things done and is generous with his praise. As a result, you want to work with him to ensure the vision he has for the piece is executed to the highest possible standard. Ray has injected a very particular film noir quality into this production which intensifies the tension as the play reaches its conclusion.
What is your favourite role to date?
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to play the transsexual character, Bernadette, in the West End production of ‘Priscilla – Queen of the Desert.’ What I loved about playing her is that it was a complete physical transformation – the person who walked into the dressing room bore no resemblance to the person that walked out half-an-hour later. It is very liberating for an actor to play someone completely different to yourself and also to receive comments from chums that they did not realise it was me!
Stage or screen?
Both have their merits. I like the concentration and atmosphere of a live audience but also the immediacy and intimacy of finding yourself in front of a camera. I would have to say that theatre is my first love.
What role would you most like to play?
Norman in ‘The Dresser’.
What will the audience like most about Freddie, Ted, and the Death of Joe Orton?
It’s haunting quality.
Why should they go?
Because it won’t be what they are expecting……
Freddie, Ted, and the Death of Joe Orton by Don Cotter runs at London Theatre Workshop from 27th November – 16th December, 2017. It is directed by Ray Rackham and stars Robert Styles, Eoin McAndrew, Helen Sheals and Perry Meadowcroft.
Address: London Theatre Workshop, Leadenhall Market, 88 Gracechurch Street, London EC3V 0DN (above the New Moon Pub).