Orange has kept a low profile since the disintegration of the world's biggest boy band. While his erstwhile chums pursued solo pop careers to varying degrees of success, rumours spread that Orange was taking drama lessons. Amid stifled guffaws, some even toasted his audacious plans. Now, in a far cry from his glory days as a teen idol, he made his stage debut in Jim Kenworth's Gob and is reputed to be earning pounds 120 a week.
Orange plays The Liberator, a dreamy ne'er-do-well with a taste for poetry and alcohol. He is accompanied by a bullheaded side-kick called Hard Man Les whose idea of a good night out consists of tourist-bashing in the West End.
But one night The Liberator and Hard Man Les decide to storm a reading at London's South Bank and present their own urban-style poetry. "No knives, no knuckle-dusters, just the mighty clash of urban tongues," cries The Liberator.
Tom Hayes's Hard Man Les was the more persuasive of the two.
But any young man wanting to rid himself of the residue of boy-bandhood could not have found himself a better part. Orange got to swig beer, simulate orgasms and utter profanities that would have ensured his swift return to the dole queue a few years ago. His voice, coarsened for the part, still betrayed some of that stage school melodrama with over-long speeches about the disenfranchised.
Under James Martin Charlton's direction, the characters verbal to-ing and and fro-ing sometimes dissolved into a rigorous work-out. Prolonged sessions of jogging on the spot made me think of a post-Take That aerobics video and with Orange's fervent punching of the air, you couldsee him back in his stadium-sized glory, orchestrating the emotions of legions of weeping teenagers with the mere twitch of an eyebrow.
Now, whatever happened to that Howard?