Matt Lucas is to return to the stage in Prick Up Your Ears, a new play by Simon Bent about the life of the late playwright Joe Orton, which premieres at the Comedy theatre on 30 September (previews from 17 September).
The Little Britain star will play Kenneth Halliwell, Orton’s lover and murderer, in this play which is inspired by the John Lahr biography of the same name and Orton’s published diaries. Chris New plays Orton.
Prick Up Your Ears is set in 1962, when Halliwell and Orton, RADA graduates and aspiring playwrights, plot their rightful place at the centre of London’s literary scene whilst engaging in a secret crusade to ‘improve’ the local library books. After a short interlude at Her Majesty’s pleasure, Orton is about to become the greatest and most notorious comic playwright since Oscar Wilde, while Halliwell stays indoors redecorating, reduced to sharing his lover’s success with their neighbour, Mrs Corden, over tea and a slice of Battenburg.
In his short career Orton wrote the plays The Ruffian On The Stair, Entertaining Mr Sloane, Loot and What The Butler Saw, as well as several novels. He was battered to death by Halliwell in 1967 in the flat they shared in Islington.
Lahr’s 1978 biography of Orton was adapted by Alan Bennett into a screen version in 1987 which starred Gary Oldman as Orton and Alfred Molina as Halliwell.
For this new stage play, Lucas returns to the West End where he previously appeared in Taboo. His stage credits also include Troilus And Cressida and Little Britain Live, though he is best known for his work on television, which, in addition to his partnership with David Walliams in Little Britain, includes Shooting Stars, Gavin And Stacey, Krod Mandoon And The Flaming Sword Of Fire, plus the films Shaun Of The Dead and Alice In Wonderland.
New was nominated for Outstanding Newcomer in the 2006 Evening Standard Theatre Awards for his performance in Bent at Trafalgar Studios. He has since been seen on stage in The Reporter at the National Theatre, Amazonia at the Young Vic and The Comedy Of Errors and Twelfth Night for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
They are directed by Daniel Kramer, who previously directed New in Bent. A theatre and opera director, Kramer’s varied credits include Pictures From An Exhibition at the Young Vic, Punch And Judy for English National Opera at the Young Vic, Angels In America for Headlong and Through The Leaves at Southwark Playhouse and the Duchess theatre.
Playwright Simon Bent’s previous work includes A Prayer For Owen Meany and The Associate at the National Theatre, Elling at the Bush theatre and Trafalgar Studios and Under The Black Flag for Shakespeare’s Globe.
Prick Up Your Ears, which is booking at the Comedy theatre until 6 December, follows new musical Too Close To The Sun, which is scheduled to occupy the venue from 17 July to 5 September.