Freddie, Ted and the Death of Joe Orton: First night review by Stephen Vowles

Don Cotter’s play is both gripping and shocking and a wonderful homage to Mr Orton. The play works incredibly well on two levels. Firstly as a story in its own right and also as acknowledgement to the skill that Orton had in the way he constructed his own plays and shaped his characters which Cotter uses to great effect in his own play, especially in Act 2.

The play is set in rather dingy flat in Brighton where Freddie played by an excellent Robert Styles mourns the loss of his first and true love and keeps a shrine to him tucked away in a cabinet. He lives with the much younger Ted, played by a very enigmatic Eoin McAndrew, who longs for fame and fortune in the swinging London of the 1960s. Ted is his protege. This superb cast of four is completed by Helen Sheals as the long suffering Dilys who seems to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders and lastly Perry Meadowcroft as a very watchable Glenn who knows what he wants and how to manipulate people to get it. Here Cotter is a true master borrowing the traits of Orton’s characters that makes for stunning theatre.

Cotter’s sense of irony is also fabulous as the play is set between 1964 to 1967 and when the law on homosexuality is changed. Ted tells Freddie that things can only get better that they must have hope and that they do not need to live in fear anymore for that ‘knock’ on the door. This play is also extremely stylish and hugely atmospheric with the clever use of a radio detailing the timeline.

Cotter examines social constraints of the time: snobbery, bitchiness and with the character of Dilys’ words that in today’s society would be deemed un-PC but in the England of the 1960s her character would have no idea of how sacrilegious and racist her remarks were. The four actors in this piece also emote such sensitivity that makes for a night of very moving and sensational theatre where the black humour and skill that Orton used in his work has been enthusiastically given a modern twist. A superb look at the fragility of being a human being. Directed by Ray Packham with an equal sense of passion and flair and a wonderful grip on the mood that Cotter and his cast have created.


Freddie, Ted and the Death of Joe Orton runs to the 16th December at the London Theatre Workshop, 88 Gracechurch Street ECV3 0DN. Tickets via

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