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Kenneth Halliwell: Wikis


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Kenneth Halliwell
Born Kenneth Leith Halliwell
23 June 1926(1926-06-23)
Died 9 August 1967 (aged 41)
Islington, London, England

Kenneth Halliwell (23 June 1926 ‚Äď 9 August 1967) was a British actor and writer. He was the mentor, partner and eventual murderer of playwright Joe Orton.



Halliwell's early years were traumatic. In general, he was ignored by his father and pampered by his mother. When he was 11, he witnessed his mother's death at the family home from a wasp sting.

Halliwell was a classics scholar at Wirral Grammar School, where he gained his Higher School Certificates in 1943.[1] Becoming liable for military service in 1944, he registered as a conscientious objector, and was exempted conditional upon becoming a coal miner.[2] After discharge in 1946, he acted for a time in Scotland and then returned home to act in Birkenhead. His father committed suicide in 1949 by putting his head in an oven; Halliwell was the first to find the body the following morning. Afterward, Halliwell moved to London to study drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), having inherited the family fortune.[1]

Relationship with Orton

In 1951, he met Joe Orton, a fellow RADA student.[3] Both men were struggling actors who became struggling writers. However, their common interests led to a lengthy romantic relationship. Halliwell, in the early years, seems to have been something of a tutor to Orton, who had had a rather cursory education, and helped to mold the writing style that would later be called "Ortonesque".[4][5] The two men collaborated on several novels, including The Boy Hairdresser, which were not published until after their deaths.[6]

In 1962 Halliwell was sent to HM Prison Ford in Sussex for six months for the theft and defacement of library books. (Orton went to Eastchurch in Kent.) Orton's emerging success as a writer, following their release from prison, put a distance between the two men that Halliwell found difficult to handle.[7] Towards the end of his life, Halliwell was on regular courses of anti-depressants.[8]


On 9 August 1967, Halliwell killed Orton with nine hammer blows to the head and then overdosed on Nembutal sleeping pills. Halliwell died first.[9] Their bodies were discovered late the following morning, when a chauffeur arrived at the door of their Noel Road flat in Islington to collect Orton for a meeting with The Beatles regarding a screenplay he had written for them.[10]

Halliwell's suicide note referred to the contents of Orton's diary as an explanation for his actions:

"If you read his diary, all will be explained. KH PS: Especially the latter part."[10]

This is presumed to be a reference to Orton's description of his promiscuity; the diary contains numerous incidents of cottaging in public lavatories and other sexual relationships.

In popular culture

In Prick Up Your Ears, the 1987 film based on Orton's life, Halliwell was portrayed by Alfred Molina.

In Fantabulosa!, the 2006 biopic about Kenneth Williams, he was portrayed by Ewan Bailey.

British experimental music group Coil recorded three tracks titled "The Halliwell Hammers" for their 1995 album Worship The Glitch. The two primary members of Coil, John Balance and Peter Christopherson, were romantic partners through most of the band's existence, and much of their work was inspired by or dedicated to gay icons and personalities of the past.

Richard Ely has created a solo performance piece based on Halliwell's life, 'Especially The Latter Part', which premiered at the Garrick Theatre, Lichfield on 19th September 2009. [11]

The stage version of Prick Up Your Ears, written by Simon Bent, opened on the West End in London at the Royal Theatre on September 17, 2009. Matt Lucas played Kenneth Halliwell and Chris New plays John Orton. Con O'Neill took over the role of Halliwell after Lucas pulled out. The play closed early, on November 15, 2009. [12]


  • The Protagonist (circa 1949), unproduced and unpublished play about Edmund Kean.
  • The Silver Bucket (1953), The Mechanical Womb (1955), The Last Days of Sodom (1955), novels co-written with Orton, all unpublished and now lost.
  • Priapus in the Shrubbery (1959), solo novel, unpublished and now lost.
  • Lord Cucumber and The Boy Hairdresser, novels co-written with Orton, published in 2001.


  1. ^ a b Orton, Joe; Lahr, John (1996). The Orton Diaries. Da Capo Press. pp. 24. ISBN 0-306-80733-5. 
  2. ^ Lahr, John (1980). Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton. Penguin. pp. 109. ISBN 0-140-10067-9. 
  3. ^ Morley, Sheridan (2006). Theatre's Strangest Acts: Extraordinary But True Tales from the History of Theatre. Robson. pp. 133. ISBN 1-861-05674-5. 
  4. ^ Orton, Joe; Lahr, John (1990). The Complete Plays: The Ruffian on the Stair, Entertaining Mr. Sloan, the Good and Faithful Servant, Loot, the Erpingham Camp, Funeral Games, What the Butler Saw. Grove Press. pp. 13, 14. ISBN 0-802-13215-4. 
  5. ^ Shepard, Simon (1989). Because We're Queers: The Life and Crimes of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton. GMP. pp. 88. ISBN 0-854-49090-6. 
  6. ^ Griffin, Gabriele (2002). Who's who in Lesbian and Gay Writing. Routledge. pp. 149. ISBN 0-415-15984-9. 
  7. ^ Gale, Steven H. (1996). Encyclopedia of British Humorists: Geoffrey Chaucer to John Cleese. Taylor & Francis. pp. 803. ISBN 0-824-05990-5. 
  8. ^ Lahr, John (2000). Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton. University of California Press. pp. 33. ISBN 0-520-22666-6. 
  9. ^ Orton, Joe; Lahr, John (1996). The Orton Diaries. Da Capo Press. pp. 266. ISBN 0-306-80733-5. 
  10. ^ a b Coppa, Francesca (2002). Joe Orton: A Casebook. Routledge. pp. 2. ISBN 0-815-33627-6. 
  11. ^
  12. ^

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