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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Holton’

There’s a biography, a film and a play charting the relationship between playwright Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, but I never thought I’d see a musical. As it turns out, Richard Silver & Sean J Hume’s show proves better at showing the complexity of their relationship, as well as being an impressive small-scale musical.

It follows the pair from their first meeting at RADA in 1951 through to Orton’s murder by a by now psychotic Halliwell 16 years later. The unlikely relationship takes us through 50’s drama school life, their hermit-like existence in a small Islington flat, Orton’s promiscuity, imprisonment for defacing library books and North African holidays with Kenneth Williams through to success in the 60’s, when Orton overshadows Halliwell as he becomes a darling of the glitterati. It’s a fascinating story and here it’s entertainingly told, yet still manages to convey the psychological depth of the relationship and its tragic ending.

I thought both Richard Dawes and Andrew Rowney (who appears to have had his head shaved in the line of duty!) were outstanding as Orton and Halliwell respectively. Valerie Cutko was excellent as both of the contrasting older women in their lives – landlady Mrs Cordon and literary agent Peggy Ramsay – and there’s a terrific turn from Simon Kingsley as Kenneth Williams. In an excellent small ensemble, Katie Brennan stands out.

It’s a very good score, full of great tunes and sharp lyrics. The book doesn’t veer from the other forms, though there were a few new facts (to me), most notably that Terence Rattigan invested in the original production of Entertaining Mr Sloane. Director Tim McArthur has done well to make the show work in such a small space and his staging has great pace, using the six doors of Andrew Holton’s design to great effect.

A fine new British musical that’s about to close, but will hopefully turn up again.

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