The Hope Theatre in Islington specialises in new writing – so what is it doing performing celebrated 20th century playwright Joe Orton’s 1959 play Fred & Madge? Well, to all intents and purposes F&M is a new play – it lay forgotten for years, only being published in 2001, and this is its first professional production.
I’d only seen one previous Orton play, but it interested me enough to check out this one. Fred & Madge is patchy, and it’s all too obvious that it is an early work. However, there are seeds of the brilliant satirical writer Orton would become. The play pokes fun at quiet suburban life: the first few scenes were like something you might get if Samuel Beckett had written an episode of Coronation Street. Later, things get curiouser and curiouser, with the eponymous couple splitting up, planning to travel to India, living in a jungle and attacking the bastions of respectable civilisation – such as the Southbank Centre. Unusual, certainly, but an interesting piece.