Prick Up Your Ears, a darkly comic play inspired Orton's diaries and the John Lahr biography of the same name (also the inspiration for Stephen Frears' 1987 film, scripted by Alan Bennett), examines the relationship between the two writers which ended tragically in 1967 when Halliwell bludgeoned Orton to death before committing suicide.
The play imagines what really happened when, after years of creative collaboration, the door slammed shut and Kenneth Halliwell was home alone. It tells the story behind the domestic life of Joe Orton and Halliwell, holed up in a tiny flat in Islington, trading well-trodden insults and hilarious put-downs like any old married couple.
Chris New, whose London stage credits include The Reporter at the National and Bent at the Trafalgar Studios, stars opposite Lucas as Orton. Casting for the final role of Mrs Corden, the neighbour, will be announced shortly. American Daniel Kramer (Pictures from an Exhibition, Bent) directs.
Matt Lucas, best known for his work with comedy partner David Walliams on BBC sketch show Little Britain, last appeared on the West End stage when he took over the role of Leigh Bowery in the original production of Boy George's Taboo in 2002.
Prior to the West End opening, Prick Up Your Ears will play at Richmond Theatre (26-29 August), The Lowry, Salford (31 August-5 September) and the Theatre Royal Brighton (7-12 September).
It's produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Kim Poster for Stanhope Productions and Lee Menzies and is currently booking at the Comedy until 6 December 2009.