About Joe Orton
About the Leicester-born playwright and author Joe Orton (1933 - 1967), whose short but prolific career included 10 plays and three novels.
Joe Orton, Edna Welthorpe, Play, playwright, Leicester, Letters, Entertaining Mr Sloane
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joe-orton

You’re a bloody marvellous writer…”

HAROLD PINTER

ABOUT

Joe Orton

Born in Leicester, Orton grew up in poverty but went on to achieve success and celebrity. His work was lauded by the leading playwrights of his day: Terence Rattigan, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter. He appeared on The Eamonn Andrews Show, was photographed alongside the supermodel Twiggy, and was commissioned to write a screenplay for The Beatles.

 

Orton’s major plays – Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964), Loot (1965) and What the Butler Saw (1969) – express irreverence towards authority and mock the Establishment. A working class gay man who lived before the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Orton’s anarchic black comedies satirise social and sexual inequality. His plays were part of the new counterculture that shaped the Swinging Sixties.

 

Orton’s plays were admired in their day and have left an indelible mark on theatre. Entertaining Mr Sloane won the London Critics’ Play of the Year Award in 1964 and is considered to be one of the top 100 plays of all time (What’s On Stage). Loot won the prestigious Evening Standard Play of the Year Award in 1966 and has been named one of the 100 best plays of the twentieth century by the National Theatre. What the Butler Saw is included in Kate Dorney and Frances Gray’s Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays (2013), a list of the dramas that have defined British theatre.

joe-orton

You’re a bloody marvellous writer…”

HAROLD PINTER

ABOUT

Joe Orton

Born in Leicester, Orton grew up in poverty but went on to achieve success and celebrity. His work was lauded by the leading playwrights of his day: Terence Rattigan, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter. He appeared on The Eamonn Andrews Show, was photographed alongside the supermodel Twiggy, and was commissioned to write a screenplay for The Beatles.

 

Orton’s major plays – Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964), Loot (1965) and What the Butler Saw (1969) – express irreverence towards authority and mock the Establishment. A working class gay man who lived before the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Orton’s anarchic black comedies satirise social and sexual inequality. His plays were part of the new counterculture that shaped the Swinging Sixties.

 

Orton’s plays were admired in their day and have left an indelible mark on theatre. Entertaining Mr Sloane won the London Critics’ Play of the Year Award in 1964 and is considered to be one of the top 100 plays of all time (What’s On Stage). Loot won the prestigious Evening Standard Play of the Year Award in 1966 and has been named one of the 100 best plays of the twentieth century by the National Theatre. What the Butler Saw is included in Kate Dorney and Frances Gray’s Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays (2013), a list of the dramas that have defined British theatre.

joe-orton

ABOUT

Joe Orton

Born in Leicester, Orton grew up in poverty but went on to achieve success and celebrity. His work was lauded by the leading playwrights of his day: Terence Rattigan, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter. He appeared on The Eamonn Andrews Show, was photographed alongside the supermodel Twiggy, and was commissioned to write a screenplay for The Beatles.

 

Orton’s major plays – Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964), Loot (1965) and What the Butler Saw (1969) – express irreverence towards authority and mock the Establishment. A working class gay man who lived before the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Orton’s anarchic black comedies satirise social and sexual inequality. His plays were part of the new counterculture that shaped the Swinging Sixties.

 

Orton’s plays were admired in their day and have left an indelible mark on theatre. Entertaining Mr Sloane won the London Critics’ Play of the Year Award in 1964 and is considered to be one of the top 100 plays of all time (What’s On Stage). Loot won the prestigious Evening Standard Play of the Year Award in 1966 and has been named one of the 100 best plays of the twentieth century by the National Theatre. What the Butler Saw is included in Kate Dorney and Frances Gray’s Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays (2013), a list of the dramas that have defined British theatre.

You’re a bloody marvellous writer…”

HAROLD PINTER
EDNA SPEAKS

A TRIBUTE TO JOE ORTON

Holly Johnson

As a queer child and teenager, writing poetry and songs, and drawing pictures, I was always looking for signs, those leading lights at the end of a dark tunnel – the so-called twilight world of the male homosexual; looking for those who had expressed their otherness through their creative work, sometimes written between the lines or hidden in the margins. So, as an 18 year old in 1978, under the age of consent for acting out the physical aspects of  being a gay man (then 21), discovering Joe Orton through the pages of a book called Prick Up Your Ears by one John Lahr was a revelation.

 

I began joining the dots from Joe to Kenneth Williams via Tangier through to Brian Epstein, the Svengali behind The Beatles, Liverpool’s greatest export of the 1960s and beyond. However, it was John Kingsley Orton who revelled in his prolific creativity and illicit sexuality, around which these characters spun, like satellites. Peggy Ramsey, the agent, gatekeeper and diary thief, Kenneth Halliwell, amanuensis, co-author of novels and provider of titles, significant other, transformed into a monster by Lahr: all were in the orbit of a supernova that shone so very brightly. There he was filtered through the literary censoring and pilfering of the diaries left at the scene of the crime, the couple’s final exit days after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

 

I remember seeing Leonard Rossiter in Loot in The West End when I first moved to London to play the role of Frankie the pop star banned by the BBC; watching the film of Entertaining Mr Sloane on repeat in the video age, marvelling at the lines and brilliant performances of Beryl Reid, Harry Andrews, Peter McEnery; buying a set of lobby cards for the film on the internet. Joe Orton was always in my mental arsenal and imagination, always there ready to inspire me and others looking for a way out of the mundane Mary Whitehouse world we grew up in.

 

What would Edna think?

HOLLY JOHNSON
Holly Johnson

[Joe was] a supernova that shone so very brightly”

HOLLY JOHNSON, 2017

A TRIBUTE TO JOE ORTON

Holly Johnson

As a queer child and teenager, writing poetry and songs, and drawing pictures, I was always looking for signs, those leading lights at the end of a dark tunnel – the so-called twilight world of the male homosexual; looking for those who had expressed their otherness through their creative work, sometimes written between the lines or hidden in the margins. So, as an 18 year old in 1978, under the age of consent for acting out the physical aspects of  being a gay man (then 21), discovering Joe Orton through the pages of a book called Prick Up Your Ears by one John Lahr was a revelation.

 

I began joining the dots from Joe to Kenneth Williams via Tangier through to Brian Epstein, the Svengali behind The Beatles, Liverpool’s greatest export of the 1960s and beyond. However, it was John Kingsley Orton who revelled in his prolific creativity and illicit sexuality, around which these characters spun, like satellites. Peggy Ramsey, the agent, gatekeeper and diary thief, Kenneth Halliwell, amanuensis, co-author of novels and provider of titles, significant other, transformed into a monster by Lahr: all were in the orbit of a supernova that shone so very brightly. There he was filtered through the literary censoring and pilfering of the diaries left at the scene of the crime, the couple’s final exit days after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

 

I remember seeing Leonard Rossiter in Loot in The West End when I first moved to London to play the role of Frankie the pop star banned by the BBC; watching the film of Entertaining Mr Sloane on repeat in the video age, marvelling at the lines and brilliant performances of Beryl Reid, Harry Andrews, Peter McEnery; buying a set of lobby cards for the film on the internet. Joe Orton was always in my mental arsenal and imagination, always there ready to inspire me and others looking for a way out of the mundane Mary Whitehouse world we grew up in.

 

What would Edna think?

HOLLY JOHNSON
Holly Johnson

[Joe was] a supernova that shone so very brightly”

HOLLY JOHNSON, 2017