‘The complexities of human nature and more
specifically love are given a richness and heartfelt
honesty in this production’
1960’s events are unfolding, and relationships move and ebb like the sea along Brighton Pier seafront. An apt setting for a gay couple to co-habit, although still wanting to keep under the radar and trust only a few. Over a three-year period, we see how Freddie, the older man in a partnership with Ted, a young idealist, shift and change their relationship, fighting for power, sometimes destructively and always with consequences.
The play explores how difficult it was to admit homosexuality even after the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, decriminalising homosexual acts in private between two men (over 21). 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of this and the untimely death of playwright Joe Orton.
Joe Orton is someone Freddie admires greatly. Is it the attraction of having similarities or just romantic? The answer is never clear, but this character has complexity with his struggle for power, his previous relationship with someone he adored and having OCD undiagnosed. He is uptight, jealous and anti-social but Robert Styles draws you in and mesmerises with a brilliantly believable performance that touches you. The parallels that writer Don Cotter creates with Freddie and Joe Orton only add to the inevitable sadness and loneliness of being homosexual in the 1960’s. You cannot help but see how difficult his life has been when all he has wanted to do was love someone.
Then there’s Dilys, a friend who works with Ted in the second-hand book shop and her Grandson Glenn, who at first appears to be homophobic. Again, playwright Cotter has drawn deep into these characters. They are all flawed and complex but best of all, unpredictable. Dilys played by Helen Sheals offers the best comedy lines and she does so impeccably. Her warmth and humour are a nice addition to the play. The complexities of human nature and more specifically love is given a richness and heartfelt honesty in this production.
All the acting is superb. There is freshness to the performances and the rehearsal process appears to have been well developed under the direction of Ray Rackham.
The set design and music helped to immerse us in the 1960’s. The detail of the room and the working props were seamless and necessary. The constant intrusion of the radio announcements helped layer the story and each time the year changed so did the music. To witness the thought that has gone into all aspects of this was a treat.
The struggle for the gay community is clearly laid out in this play while also highlighting that in 2017 there is still much work to do globally to combat prejudice. The resounding message in this story is that everyone wants to be loved and to love.
The team at London Theatre Workshop have worked hard at creating this new venue in the heart of London. It is intimate, unpretentious, welcoming and totally accessible from anywhere in London. Go support them, support this production and remember to love each other.
FREDDIE, TED AND THE DEATH OF JOE ORTON by Don Cotter.
Directed by Ray Rackham
London Theatre workshop 27th Nov – 16th Dec 2017
Box office: http://www.londontheatreworkshop.co.uk
Jo Griffiths has lectured in theatre studies for over twenty years. She is a keen playwright and founder member of Two42 Theatre Company. She made the top 20 at Bristol Old Vic in 2016 and the long list of Papatango also in 2016. She is in the semi finals at Little Fish Theatre short play competition 2017.