Entertaining Mr. Orton

by Martin Mulgrew

Directed by Martin Buttery

Tuesday 17th - Saturday 21st September, 2013

The Tower Theatre performing
at C+3 (venue 34), Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Entertaining Mr Orton is hilarious, dramatic, perfectly paced, exceptionally well-acted and beautifully written. The story depicts Joe Orton in the black comedy style of his own plays, following his relationship with Kenneth Halliwell up to his murder. The piece sticks closely to the real events while also being farcical; Orton's theatre snob alter ego 'Aunt Edna' is a real character. The characterisation is superb, from tragic characters such as Orton's mother to hilarious caricatures in the courtroom scene, but particularly with regard to Orton and Halliwell's deteriorating relationship. Overall the piece is incredibly well-balanced, hilarious as it is ultimately sad, silly as it is profound and as good a depiction of the playwright as it is explosively entertaining.
(5 star review by Julian Joseph for Three Weeks Edinburgh)

At the heart of this finely tuned play's success is Jack Burns's lead performance, absolutely inhabiting the laconic Orton, heavy fringe and needle-sharp twinkle of bloody-minded mischief in his eyes. Even the campness of his demeanour is subverted by the cloud of disdain orbiting him at all times.

Martin Mulgrew's script is canny and controlled, a summation of Orton's later months delivered in a distinctly Ortonesque style of its own, all cynicism and laughter in the face of humanity as it moves around him.

The sadness at the heart of the piece is apparent, as Orton devilishly casts off all who care about him even as the resentment from failed artist Halliwell, which builds to their eventual death, is made clear. Yet it's also genuinely very funny. The mystery is never solved, but this striking black comedy offers a memorable meditation about envy and ambition as it goes.
(From the review by David Pollock for The Scotsman)

The Tower Theatre Company's Entertaining Mr Orton by Martin Mulgrew is an intriguing exposé of Joe Orton's outrageous life. This year sees the 80th anniversary of the birth of this controversial and enduring playwright.

In this new black comedy, writter Mulgrew cleverly imagines Joe's life in the style of one of his own plays and it is spot on.

Jack Burns is impressive as Joe and even looks like him. We discover him having dinner, halibut, potatoes and tinned peas, with his lover Kenneth Halliwell, splendidly portrayed by Stuart Denman.

Their tempestuous relationship is powerfully revealed as their hedonistic homosexual life style collides with society.

The defacing of library books lands the lads in court and they are given a hefty prison sentence by Judge Walker (Peter Novis)

Joe's mother Elsie (Denyse Macpherson) is recovering from a stroke and her daughter Leonie (Carla Evans) is trying to hold the family together.

Helen McCormack is superb as their landlady who also is a prostitute and Karen Walker is convincing as Orton's literary agent. There is tremendous support from the rest of the cast who all give fine performances.

This is a fast-paced production that uses humour most effectively with a powerful dramatic ending, and the audience loved it.
(Review by Robin Strapp for The British Theatre Guide)

Photography by David Sprecher

Joe Orton : Jack Burns
Kenneth Halliwell : Stuart Denman
Leonie Orton : Carla Evans
Elsie Orton : Denyse Macpherson
Peggy Ramsey : Karen Walker
Dr Rance : Peter Westbury
Mr Prentice : Howard Gossington
Sergeant Match : Ed O'Shaughnessy
Dennis : Leon Chambers
Hal : Paul Giddings
Judge Walker : Peter Novis
Court Clerk : Courtney Farrow
Geraldine : Katie Vye
Nurse Barclay : Courtney Farrow
Edna Welthorpe : Helen McCormack


Production Team
Director : Martin Buttery
Costume and Set Design : Eugene Reeder
Lighting Design : Stephen Ley
Sound Design : Barry Stone

Producer : Haidee Elise
Stage Manager / Tour Manager : Sarah Ambrose
ASM : Ann Watchorn
Lighting & Sound Operator : Phillip Ley
Set Construction : Keith Syrett
Press : Joyce Terry
Marketing : Lisa Camm, Eugene Reeder, Haidee Elise
Sponsorship : Pat Grosse
Front of House : Stephen Brasher

After a five-year break while starting a family, this is Jack Burns first production back. Past credits include Citizenship (Old Vic) and, on film, Flirting with Flamenco and Turnout. Jack trained at the Courtyard for 3 years.
Stuart Denman played McMurphy on stage in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Recent TV includes Bloody Tales and The History of Physics. He can soon be heard in Doctor Who - The Space Race, a Big Finish audio drama. Stuart trained at Mountview.
This is Carla Evans' fourth production with the Tower Theatre, having previously appeared in Macbeth, Her Naked Skin and David Copperfield. Earlier this year she also appeared in Charm Offensive's repertory productions of The Seagull and A Month in the Country. Carla is also looking forward to taking part in a Tower Friends' rehearsed reading of After The Dance in September.
Denyse Macpherson has played numberless parts for the Tower Theatre over sixty years. Last time in Edinburgh she played a corpse : this time she is walking and talking. So you could say she is getting better!
Karen Walker joined the Tower in 1985 and has been involved in dozens of productions in the UK and overseas. Principal roles include Cleopatra in Anthony and Cleopatra, Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Gertrude in Hamlet, Julia Sterroll in Fallen Angels and Florence in The Vortex. Most recently she has appeared in the Tower's productions of Baba Shakespeare (London and Stratford) and David Copperfield (London and Cornwall).
Peter Westburyr has worked with the Tower Theatre as actor (Calendar Girls, Whose Life Is It Anyway, Sweet Charity etc.) and director (Company, The Boy Friend, Somethings Afoot!, Broadway Bound etc.) for too many years! UK tours include Sordid Lives, Nicholas Nickleby Part II and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾. He is currently starring in the hit US commercial Cracker Barrel - The Cheese Judges and specialises in playing scary professional types for Corporate Roleplay.
Howard Gossington acted in several Tower Theatre shows in the 1990s, including Translations, The Importance of Being Earnest, Road and Arcadia, before turning professional. He's acted professionally all over the UK over the last 13 years, and is delighted to be finally making his Edinburgh debut with Entertaining Mr Orton.
Ed O'Shaughnessy has been with the Tower since late 2009 and has appeared in Cigarettes and Chocolate, Julius Caesar, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, Princess Ivona, Macbeth, David Copperfield and, most recently, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Since rejoining the Tower Theatre last year after a 13-year break, Leon Chambers has appeared in Brighton Beach Scumbags and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He is a filmmaker and has directed eight short films, which have played at film festivals all over the world. His next film will be his first feature film.
Paul Giddings trained at The Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, where his performances included Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Sir Wilful in The Way of The World. In the West End, Paul played Hernandez for the first British adaptation of Besame Mucho (Charing Cross Theatre). Other theatre productions include Mr Brooke in the UK tour of The Woman In White, Simon in Clench (Greenwich Theatre), Interviewer in Be Civil Disobey (Lost Theatre), Tim in Unplugged (Greenwich Theatre) and Billy in Stags and Hens (York). TV credits include two series of CBBC's Stitch Up! and Top Of The Pops Saturday.
Peter Novis worked for 30 years in BBC Radio Drama and has been with the Tower since 1988 acting and directing. Favourite roles include Herman Glogauer in Once in a Lifetime, the Dada in Entertaining Mr. Sloane, several parts in the annual Tower Shakespeare productions in Paris, and an Ugly Sister in Cinderella. His most recent appearance was as Biondello in The Taking of the Shrew, performed in London and Paris.
This is Courtney Farrow's fourth production with the Tower Theatre. Past productions include Comic Potential as Trudi, The Voysey Inheritance as Ethel and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as Candy. In Australia her credits included Dog's Hamlet, Cahoots Macbeth as multiple characters, Our Country's Good as Mary, Deli Chicks as Sandra and Antigone as Antigone.
Katie Vye trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts; her Theatre credits include Nina in The Seagull, Foible in The Way of the World and Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. In the West End, Katie played the role of Ingrid in Besame Mucho for its British premiere at the Charing Cross Theatre. Other theatre credits include Role C in Then They Came For Me (Greenwich Theatre) and Tilly in What if it Rains? (Quantum Theatre). TV credits include Athlete in the Power of Ten commercial for the MOD and Lisa in Bump (Short Film for the 24 hour Film Festival).
Helen McCormack has previously appeared for the Tower Theatre in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Fred and Madge, The Kitchen, Brimstone and Treacle, Garden, Absent Friends, Sordid Lives and David Copperfield.
Martin Buttery trained at Mountview and is Artistic Director of the Tower Theatre. Directing credits include Parlour Song (Cockpit) Cancer Time (Karamel Club), A View From The Bridge (Arcola) The Glass Menagerie (Bridewell), Popcorn (Gatehouse), Piano Forte (Mountview), Six Degrees of Separation (Bridewell), A Taste of Honey (Tower) and Biloxi Blues (Tower).