The Full Wiki

Joe Orton: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Kingsley ("Joe") Orton (1 January 1933 in Leicester – 9 August 1967 in Islington, London) was an English playwright.

In a short but prolific career lasting from 1964 until his death, he shocked, outraged and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies. Ortonesque became a recognised term for "outrageously macabre".


Early life

Orton was born at Causeway Lane Maternity Hospital, Leicester, to a working-class family. Until the age of two, he lived at 261 Avenue Road Extension in Clarendon Park, Leicester. The family then moved to the Saffron Lane council estate. He lived with his younger brother, Douglas, and two younger sisters, Marilyn and Leonie. His parents, William and Elsie, had married in 1931; his father worked for Leicester Council as a gardener, while his mother worked in the local footwear industry until tuberculosis cost her a lung.

Orton attended Marriots Road Primary School, but failed the eleven-plus exam after extended bouts of asthma, and so took a secretarial course at Clark's College in Leicester from 1945 to 1947. [1] He then began working as a junior clerk on £3 a week.

Orton became interested in performing in the theatre around 1949 and joined a number of different dramatic societies, including the prestigious Leicester Dramatic Society. While working on amateur productions he was also determined to improve his appearance and physique, buying body-building courses, taking elocution lessons, and trying to redress his lack of education and culture. He applied for a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in November 1950. He was accepted, and left the East Midlands for London. His entrance into RADA was delayed until May 1951 by appendicitis.

Orton met Kenneth Halliwell at RADA in 1951, moving into a West Hampstead flat with him and two other students in June of that year. Halliwell was seven years older than Orton and of independent means, having a substantial inheritance. They quickly formed a strong relationship and became lovers.

After graduating, both Orton and Halliwell went into a regional repertory work; Orton spent four months in Ipswich as an assistant stage manager, Halliwell in Llandudno, Wales. Both returned to London and became writers. They collaborated on a number of unpublished novels (often imitating Ronald Firbank), and had little success. The rejection of their great hope, The Last Days of Sodom, in 1957 led them to solo works. Orton would later return to the books for ideas and many show glimpses of his stage play style.

They refused to work for long periods, confident of their "specialness"; they subsisted on Halliwell's money (as well as the unemployment benefit) and were forced to follow an ascetic life in order to restrict their outgoings to £5 a week. From 1957–59, they worked in six-month stretches at Cadbury's to raise money for a new flat; they moved into a small, austere flat on Noel Road in Islington in 1959.

A lack of serious work led them to amuse themselves with pranks and hoaxes. Orton created the alter ego Edna Welthorpe, an elderly theatre snob, whom he would later revive to stir controversy over his plays. Orton coined the term as an allusion to Terence Rattigan's "Aunt Edna", Rattigan's archetypal playgoer.

In another episode, Orton and Halliwell stole books from the local library, and would subtly modify the cover art or the blurbs before returning them to the library. A volume of poems by John Betjeman, for example, was returned to the library with a new dustjacket featuring a photograph of a nearly naked, heavily tattooed middle-aged man. The couple took many of the prints to decorate their flat.

They were eventually discovered, and prosecuted for this in May 1962. The incident was reported in Daily Mirror as "Gorilla in the Roses". They were charged with five counts of theft and malicious damage, admitted damaging more than 70 books, and were jailed for six months (released September 1962) and fined £262. The sentence was unduly harsh, Orton and Halliwell felt, "because we were queers."[2] For Orton however, prison would be a crucial formative experience, the isolation from Halliwell allowing him to break free of him creatively, and laying bare for him the corruptness, priggishness and double-standards of a purportedly liberal country. As Orton put it, ‘It affected my attitude towards society. Before I had been vaguely conscious of something rotten somewhere, prison crystallised this. The old whore society really lifted up her skirts and the stench was pretty foul... Being in the nick brought detachment to my writing. I wasn’t involved anymore. And suddenly it worked.’[3]

The books that Orton and Halliwell vandalised have since become the most valued of the Islington Library service collection.[citation needed]

The collection of books can be viewed here:


In the early 1960s Orton began to write plays. He wrote his last novel, Head to Toe, in 1961, and soon afterward had his writing accepted. In 1963 the BBC paid £65 for the radio play The Ruffian on the Stair, broadcast on 31 August 1964. It was substantially rewritten for the stage in 1966.

Orton revelled in his achievement and poured out new works. He had completed Entertaining Mr. Sloane by the time The Ruffian on the Stair was broadcast. He sent a copy to theatre agent Peggy Ramsay in December 1963. It premiered at the New Arts Theatre on 6 May 1964 under the direction of Michael Codron. Reviews ranged from praise to outrage.

Entertaining Mr Sloane lost money in its three week run, but critical praise from playwright Terence Rattigan (who invested £3,000 in it) ensured its survival. The play was transferred to Wyndham's Theatre in the West End at the end of June and to the Queen's Theatre in October. Sloane tied for first in the Variety Critics' Poll for "Best New Play" and Orton came second for "Most Promising Playwright." Within a year, Sloane was being performed in New York, Spain, Israel and Australia, as well as being made into a film and a television play.

Orton's next performed work was Loot. The first draft was written between June and October 1964 and entitled Funeral Games, a title Orton would drop at Halliwell's suggestion but would later reuse. The play is a wild parody of detective fiction, adding the blackest farce and jabs at established ideas on death, the police, religion and justice. Orton offered the play to Codron in October 1964 and it underwent sweeping rewrites before it was judged fit for the West End (for example, the character of "Inspector Truscott" had a mere eight lines in the initial first act.)

Codron had manoeuvred Orton into meeting his colleague Kenneth Williams in August 1964. Orton reworked Loot with Williams in mind for Truscott. His other inspiration for the role was DS Harold Challenor.

With the success of Sloane, Loot was hurried into pre-production, despite its obvious flaws. Rehearsals began in January 1965 with a six-week tour culminating in a West End debut planned. The play opened in Cambridge on 1 February to scathing reviews.

Orton, at odds with director Peter Wood over the plot, produced 133 pages of new material to replace, or add, to the original 90. The play received poor reviews in Brighton, Oxford, Bournemouth, Manchester, and finally Wimbledon in mid-March. Discouraged, Orton and Halliwell went on an 80-day holiday in Tangier, Morocco.

In January 1966, Loot was revived, with Oscar Lewenstein taking up an option. Before his production, it had a short run (11–23 April) at the University Theatre, Manchester. Orton's growing experience led him to cut over 600 lines, raising the tempo and improving the characters' interactions.

Directed by Braham Murray, the play garnered more favourable reviews. Lewenstein was still a little cool, however, and put the London production in a "sort of Off-West End theatre", the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre in Bloomsbury, under the direction of Charles Marowitz.

Orton continued his habit of clashing with directors with Marowitz, but the additional cuts they agreed to further improved the play. It premiered in London on 27 September 1966, to rave reviews. Loot moved to the Criterion Theatre in November, raising Orton's confidence to new heights while he was in the middle of writing What the Butler Saw.

Loot went on to win several awards and firmly established Orton's fame. He sold the film rights for £25,000, although he was certain it would flop; it did, and Loot on Broadway repeated the failure of Sloane. Orton was still on an absolute high, however, and over the next ten months revised The Ruffian on the Stair and The Erpingham Camp for the stage as a double called Crimes of Passion, wrote Funeral Games, the screenplay Up Against It for the Beatles, and worked on What the Butler Saw.

The Good and Faithful Servant was a transitional work for Orton. A one-act television play, it was completed by June 1964 but first broadcast by Associated-Rediffusion on 6 April 1967.

The Erpingham Camp, Orton's take on The Bacchae, written through mid-1965 and offered to Rediffusion in October of that year, was broadcast on 27 June 1966 as the 'pride' segment in their series Seven Deadly Sins.

Orton wrote and rewrote Funeral Games four times from July – November, 1966. Created for a 1967 Rediffusion series, The Seven Deadly Virtues, Orton's play dealt with charity — especially Christian charity — in a confusion of adultery and murder. However Rediffusion did not use the play. Instead it was made as one of the first productions of the new ITV company Yorkshire Television, and was broadcast posthumously on 26 August 1968.

In March 1967 Orton and Halliwell had intended another extended holiday in Libya, but unhappy at the lack of hotel accommodation and the fact the only place they could find to stay was on a boat which had been converted into a hotel/nightclub they returned home the day after they arrived. Orton was working hard, energised and happy; Halliwell was increasingly depressed, argumentative, and plagued with mystery ailments.

Orton's controversial farce What The Butler Saw debuted in the West End after his death in 1969. It opened at the Queen's Theatre with Sir Ralph Richardson, Coral Browne, Stanley Baxter, and Hayward Morse.


On 9 August 1967, Halliwell bludgeoned the 34-year-old Orton to death with nine hammer blows to the head, and then committed suicide with an overdose of 22 Nembutal tablets washed down with the juice from canned grapefruit. Investigators determined that Halliwell died first, because Orton's body was still warm.

The 22 November 1970 edition of The Sunday Times reported that on 5 August 1967, four days before the murder, Orton went to the Chelsea Potter pub in the King's Road. He met friend Peter Nolan who later gave evidence at the inquest that Orton told him that he had another boyfriend, and that he wanted to end his relationship with Halliwell but didn't know how to go about it.

The last person to speak to Halliwell was his doctor, who arranged for a psychiatrist to see him the following morning. He spoke to Halliwell three times on the telephone. The last call was at 10 o'clock. Halliwell took the psychiatrist's address and said, "Don't worry, I'm feeling better now. I'll go and see the doctor tomorrow morning."

Halliwell had felt increasingly threatened and isolated by Orton's success, and had come to rely on anti-depressants and barbiturates. The bodies were discovered the following morning when a chauffeur arrived to take Orton to a meeting to discuss a screenplay he had written for the Beatles.

Halliwell left a suicide note, informing police that all would be explained if they read Orton's diaries, "especially the latter part". The diaries have since been published.

Orton was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium, his maroon cloth draped coffin being brought into the west chapel to a recording of The Beatles song "A Day in the Life." [4] The eulogy was read by Harold Pinter, who concluded by saying "he was a bloody marvellous writer." According to Dennis Dewsnap's memoir, What's Sex Got To Do With It, (The Syden Press, 2004) from mostly Tangiers, where Orton and Halliwell went on holiday, Orton and his lover/murderer had their ashes mixed and were buried together. Dewsnap writes about Orton's agent Peggy Ramsay: "...At the scattering of Joe's and Kenneth's ashes, his sister took a handful from both urns and said 'a little bit of Joe, and a little bit of Kenneth. I think perhaps a little bit more of our Joe, and then some more of Kenneth'. At which Peggy snapped 'Come on, dearie, it's only a gesture, not a recipe.', a line surely worthy of Joe himself – though indicative of the contempt in which Ramsey held the Orton family. She described them as simply "the little people in Leicester"[5], leaving a cold nondescript note and bouquet on their behalf at the funeral.

Orton's legacy stands to live on in his home town, Leicester as the development of the "cultural quarter" of the city (a former industrial area) continues apace and the new Theatre, Curve, the central development in the area, has a new pedestrian concourse outside the theatre's main entrance named, "Orton Square". Curve officially opens on 4 December 2008.

Biography and film, radio, TV

John Lahr wrote a biography of Orton entitled Prick Up Your Ears, a title Orton himself had considered using, in 1978. The 1987 film adaptation is based on Orton's diaries and on Lahr's research. Directed by Stephen Frears, it starred Gary Oldman as Orton, Alfred Molina as Halliwell and Vanessa Redgrave as Peggy Ramsay. Alan Bennett wrote the screenplay.

Joe Orton was played by the actor Kenny Doughty in the BBC film Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa!, starring Michael Sheen as Kenneth Williams.

Two archive recordings of Orton are known to survive: a short BBC radio interview first transmitted in August 1967 and a video recording, held by the BFI, of his appearance on Eamonn Andrews' ITV chat show transmitted 23 April 1967.



  • Head to Toe (published 1971)
  • Between Us Girls (published 2001)
  • Lord Cucumber and The Boy Hairdresser (co-written with Halliwell) (published 2001)


  1. ^ Stage and Screen Lives, p.249, Oxford University Press, 2001.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ A Times correspondent 19 08 1967 – timesonline archive assessed 27 08 2009
  5. ^ "A Ceremony" by Leonie Barnett, Entertaining Mr. Sloane Programme, Ambassadors' Theatre Group, 2009.'


  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. ISBN 0521434378.
  • Bigsby, C. W. E. 1982. Joe Orton. Contemporary Writers ser. London: Routledge. ISBN 0416316905.
  • Burke, Arthur. 2001. Laughter in the Dark – The Plays of Joe Orton. Billericay, Essex: Greenwich Exchange. ISBN 1871551560.
  • Charney, Maurice. 1984. Joe Orton. Grove Press Modern Dramatists ser. NY: Grove P. ISBN 039454241X.
  • Coppa, Francesca, ed. 2002. Joe Orton: A Casebook. Casebooks on Modern Dramatists ser. London: Routledge. ISBN 0815336276.
  • DiGaetani, John Louis. 2008. Stages of Struggle: Modern Playwrights and Their Psychological Inspirations. Jefferson: McFarland. ISBN 0786431571.
  • Fox, James. 1970. "The Life and Death of Joe Orton." The Sunday Times Magazine issue of 22 November.
  • Lahr, John. 1978. Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0747560145.
  • ---, ed. 1986. The Orton Diaries. By Joe Orton. London: Methuen. ISBN 0306807335.
  • ---. 1989. Diary of a Somebody. London: Methuen. ISBN 0413611809.
  • Orton, Joe. 1976. The Complete Plays. London: Methuen. ISBN 0413346102.
  • Ruskino, Susan. 1995. Joe Orton. Twayne's English Authors ser. Boston: Twayne. ISBN 0805770348.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Joe Orton {1933-01-01 - 1967-08-09) was an English playwright.



Loot (1965)

Act I

  • Fay: You've been a widower for three days. Have you considered a second marriage yet?
    McLeavy: No.
    Fay: Why not?
    McLeavy: I've been so busy with the funeral.
  • Fay: The priest at St Kilda's has asked me to speak to you. He's very worried. He says you spend your time thieving from slot machines and deflowering the daughters of better men than yourself. Is this a fact?
    Hal: Yes.
    Fay: And even the sex you were born into isn't safe from your marauding. Father Mac is popular for the remission of sins, as you know. But clearing up after you is a full-time job. He simply cannot be in the confessional twenty-four hours a day. That's reasonable, isn't it? You do see his point?
  • Fay: Have you known him long?
    Hal: We shared the same cradle.
    Fay: Was that economy or malpractice?
    Hal: We were too young then to practice and economics still defeat us.
  • Fay: What will you do when you're old?
    Hal: I shall die.
    Fay: I see you're determined to run the gamut of all experience.
  • Hal: Bury her naked? My own mum? It's a Freudian nightmare.
    Dennis: I won't disagree.
    Hal: Aren't we committing some kind of unforgivable sin?
    Dennis: Only if you're a Catholic.
    Hal: I am a Catholic. I can't undress her. She's a relative. I can go to Hell for it.
    Dennis: I'll undress her then. I don't believe in Hell.
    Hal: That's typical of your upbringing, baby. Every luxury was lavished on you - atheism, breast-feeding, circumcision. I had to make my own way.
  • Fay: The Ten Commandments. She was a great believer in some of them.
  • Dennis: She's turned me down. She's broken my heart.
    Hal: She doesn't know what she is missing, baby.
    Dennis: But she does! That's what's so humiliating.
  • Fay: Your explanation had the ring of truth. Naturally I disbelieved every word.
  • Truscott: Why aren't you both at the funeral? I thought you were mourners.
    Fay: We decided not to go. We were afraid we might break down.
    Truscott: That's a selfish attitude to take. The dead can't bury themselves, you know.
  • Truscott (shouting, knocking Hal to the floor): Under any other political system I'd have you on the floor in tears!
    Hal (crying): You've got me on the floor in tears!
  • Truscott: And you complain you were beaten?
    Dennis: Yes.
    Truscott: Did you tell anyone?
    Dennis: Yes.
    Truscott: Who?
    Dennis: The officer in charge.
    Truscott: What did he say?
    Dennis: Nothing.
    Truscott: Why not?
    Dennis: He was out of breath with kicking.

Act II

  • Truscott: Do you realize what I'm doing here?
    McLeavy: No. Your every action has been a mystery to me.
    Truscott: That is as it should be. The process by which the police arrive at the solution to a mystery is, in itself, a mystery.
  • Fay: I'm innocent till I'm proved guilty. This is a free country. The law is impartial.
    Truscott: Who's been filling your head with that rubbish?
    Fay: I can't be had for anything. You've no proof.
    Truscott: When I make out my report I shall say you've given me a confession. It could prejudice your case if I have to forge one.
  • Hal: God is a gentleman. He prefers blondes.
  • Truscott: I'm no fool.
    Fay: Your secret is safe with me.
  • McLeavy: My duty is clear.
    Truscott: Only the authorities can decide when your duty is clear. Wild guesses by persons like yourself can only cause confusion.
  • McLeavy: Where did I go wrong? His upbringing was faultless. Did you lead him astray?
    Dennis: I was innocent till I met him.
    Hal: You met me when you were three days old.
  • Truscott: How dare you involve me in a situation for which no memo has been issued.
  • McLeavy: Has no one considered my feelings in all this?
    Truscott: What percentage do you want?
    McLeavy: I don't want money. I'm an honest man.
    Truscott: You'll have to mend your ways then.
  • Fay: Have you given a thought to the priest?
    Truscott: We can't have him in on it, miss. Our percentage wouldn't be worth having.
    Fay: Mr McLeavy threatened to expose us.
    Truscott: I've been exposed before.
    Fay: What happened?
    Truscott: I arrested the man. He's doing twelve years.
  • Truscott: You're fucking nicked, my old beauty. You've found to your cost that the standards of the British police force are as high as ever.
    McLeavy: What am I charged with?
    Truscott: That needn't concern you for the moment. We'll fill in the details later.
    McLeavy: You can't do this. I've always been a law-abiding citizen. The police are for the protection of ordinary people.
    Truscott: I don't know where you pick up these slogans, sir. You must read them on hoardings.
  • McLeavy: I'm innocent. (A little unsure of himself, the beginnings of panic) Doesn't that mean anything to you?

What the Butler Saw (1969)

Act I

  • Geraldine: I've no idea who my father was.
    Prentice: I'd better be frank, Miss Barclay. I can't employ you if you're in any way miraculous. It would be contrary to established practice. You did have a father?
    Geraldine: Oh, I'm sure I did. My mother was frugal in her habits, but she'd never economize unwisely.
  • Nick: I've also found someone to take an option on the photographs.
    Mrs Prentice: What photographs?
    Nick: I had a camera concealed in the room.
    Mrs Prentice: When I gave myself to you the contract didn't include cinematic rights.
    Nick: I'd like a hundred quid for the negatives. You've got until lunchtime.
    Mrs Prentice: I shall complain to the manager.
    Nick: It will do you no good. He took the photographs.
    Mrs. Prentice: Oh, this is scandalous! I'm a married woman.
    Nick: You didn't behave like a married woman last night.
  • Mrs Prentice: You put me in an impossible position.
    Nick: No position is impossible when you're young and healthy.
  • Mrs Prentice: My uterine contractions have been bogus for some time!
    Prentice: What a discovery! Married to the mistress of the fraudulent climax.
  • Mrs Prentice: Have you taken up transvestism? I'd no idea our marriage teetered on the edge of fashion.
  • Rance: You may speak freely in front of me. I represent Her Majesty's Government. Your immediate superiors in madness. I'm from the Commissioners.
    Prentice: Which branch?
    Rance: The mental branch.
    Prentice: Do you cover asylums proper? Or just houses of tentative madness?
    Rance: My brief is infinite. I'd have sway over a rabbit hutch if the inmates were mentally disturbed.
  • Geraldine: I'm quite sane!
    Rance: Pull yourself together. Why have you been certified if you're sane? Even for a madwoman you're unusually dense.
  • Rance: Were your relations with your secretary normal?
    Prentice: Yes.
    Rance: Well, Prentice, your private life is your own affair. I find it shocking none the less.
  • Prentice: It's a fascinating theory, sir, and cleverly put together. Does it tie in with known facts?
    Rance: That need not cause us undue anxiety. Civilizations have been founded and maintained on theories which refused to obey facts.
  • Rance: A search party must be organized. What have you in the way of dogs?
    Prentice: A spaniel and a miniature poodle.
    Rance: Let them be unleashed!
  • Rance: How shocking! His abnormal condition has driven him to seek refuge in religion. Always the last ditch stand of a man on the brink of disaster.
  • Mrs Prentice: Are you ashamed of the fact that you write to strange men?
    Prentice: There's nothing furtive in my relationship with the editor of The Guardian.
  • Nick: I'm sorry if my behaviour last night caused your wife anxiety, but I've a burning desire to sleep with every woman I meet.
    Prentice: That's a filthy habit and, in my opinion, very injurious to the health.
    Nick: It is, sir. My health's never been the same since I went off stamp-collecting.
    Prentice: We have an overall moral policy in this clinic from which even I am not exempt. Whilst you're with us I shall expect you to show an interest in no one's sexual organs but your own.
    Nick: I would miss a lot of fun that way.
    Prentice: That is the object of the exercise.
  • Geraldine: We must tell the truth!
    Prentice: That's a thoroughly defeatist attitude.
  • Geraldine: At least give me back my clothes. I feel naked without them.
  • Mrs. Prentice: Are you Geraldine Barclay?
    Nick: Yes.
    Mrs. Prentice: Where have you been?
    Nick: I've been attending to the thousand and one duties that occupy the average secretary during her working hours.
    Mrs Prentice: It doesn't take the whole morning to file your nails, surely?
    Nick: I had to lie down. I was sick.
    Mrs. Prentice: Are you pregnant?
    Nick: I can't discuss my employer's business with you.
  • Prentice: This appalling situation is the result of my lax moral code. It's clean living and Teach Yourself Woodwork for me from now on!

Act II

  • Prentice: What this young woman claims is a tissue of lies.
    Match: This is a boy, sir. Not a girl. If you're baffled by the difference it might be as well to approach both with caution.
  • Prentice: It's ridiculous. I'm a married man.
    Match: Marriage excuses no one the freaks' roll-call.
  • Prentice: My nerves are on edge.
    Rance: You should consult a qualified psychiatrist.
    Prentice: I am a qualified psychiatrist.
    Rance: You're a fool. That isn't quite the same thing. Though, in your case, the two may have much in common.
  • Prentice: Unnatural vice can ruin a man.
    Rance: Ruin follows the accusation not the vice.
  • Prentice: I'm not mad. It only looks that way.
    Rance: Your actions today would get the Archbishop of Canterbury declared non-compos.
    Prentice: I'm not the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    Rance: That will come at a later stage of your illness.

The Orton Diaries (1986)

[ed. John Lahr, Minerva, ISBN 0-7493-9005-0]

  • Usual messages from the heads of the establishment. The Queen from Windsor, the Pope from Rome: Pilate and Caiaphas celebrating the birth of Christ.
    • Sunday 25 December 1966 (p. 38)
  • On the bus going home I heard a most fascinating conversation between an old man and woman. "What a thing, though," the old woman said. "You'd hardly credit it." "She's always made a fuss of the whole family, but never me," the old man said. "Does she have a fire when the young people go to see her?" "Fire?" "She won't get people seeing her without warmth." "I know why she's doing it. Don't think I don't," the old man said. "My sister she said to me, 'I wish I had your easy life.' Now that upset me. I was upset by the way she phrased herself. 'Don't talk to me like that,' I said. 'I've only got to get on the phone and ring a certain number,' I said, 'to have you stopped.'" "Yes," the old woman said, "And you can, can't you?" "Were they always the same?" she said. "When you was a child? Can you throw yourself back? How was they years ago?" "The same," the old man said. "Wicked, isn't it?" the old woman said. "Take care, now" she said, as the old man left her. He didn't say a word but got off the bus looking disgruntled.
    • Wednesday 18 January 1967 (p. 66)
  • On our way home we were waiting for the bus when a very fat, pompous-looking woman reeled out of a pub shouting, "Melancholia? Ad nauseam."
    • Saturday 15 April 1967 (p. 137)

The Edna Welthorpe letters

  • Sir — In finding so much to praise in 'Entertaining Mr. Sloane,' which seems to be nothing more than a highly sensationalized, lurid, crude and over-dramatised picture of life at its lowest, surely your dramatic critic has taken leave of his senses.

    The effect this nauseating work had on me was to make we want to fill my lungs with some fresh, wholesome Leicester Square air. A distinguished critic, if I quote him correctly, felt the sensation of snakes crawling around his ankles while watching it.

    Yours truly,

    Peter Pinnell

    • This letter was written by Orton under a pseudonym and was published by the Daily Telegraph (p.283 of the Orton Diaries)
  • Sir — As a playgoer of forty years standing, may I say that I heartily agree with Peter Pinnell in his condemnation of 'Entertaining Mr Sloane'.

    I myself was nauseated by this endless parade of mental and physical perversion. And to be told that such a disgusting piece of filth now passes for humour!

    Today's young playwrights take it upon themselves to flaunt their contempt for ordinary decent people. I hope that the ordinary decent people of this country will shortly strike back!

    Yours truly,

    Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)

    • See above (p. 283 of the Orton Diaries)


  • With insanity, as with vomit, it is the passerby who receives the inconvenience.

About Joe Orton

  • The Oscar Wilde of Welfare State gentility.
    • Ronald Bryden, review of Loot in The Observer, 2 October 1966

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address