On this day, John Kingsley Orton, (better known as the brilliant playwright, Joe Orton) was born in Leicestershire 1933 and at a meer thirty-four years old, would die a brutal death at the hands of his lover, Kenneth Hallliwell.
During his short life, Orton would write some of the most iconic and scandalous plays of their time, including, Entertaining Mr Sloan, Loot and What the Butler Saw.
Orton’s plays broke the mould and dared to question authority figures, from policemen to middle class couples, twitching their nets. Although Orton’s work shocked, it also gave the theatre a much needed kick into reality. Entertaining Mr Sloan, Loot and What The Butler Saw, where all made into successful films too.
As well as Orton’s plays having overtly gay overtones, at a time when homosexuality was illegal, Orton himself was open about his own sexuality, was a rampant cottager (seeking sex with other men in public toilets) as well as having a long standing relationship with Halliwell. Together they revelled in sticking two fingers up at established authorities; most famously when then defaced 72 library books in protest about the “endless rows of rubbish” at their local Islington library, in Essex Road. The two men managed to avoid being caught for some months. Such is Orton’s and Halliwell’s place in history, that the book where recreated at Islington Library in all their defacement back in 2011 and put on display.
Orton wrote about all of his exploites, highs an flows in his diary, which would also become the catalyst which would drive Halliway to bludgeon to death his lover with a hammer.
Although a tragic end to an extremely talented writer, Orton’s work continues to be as popular now as when it was written way back in the 60’s.
If you have never explored his work, now is as good a time as any.
Entertaining Mr. Sloan trailer: http://youtu.be/Y0C7jgJnJfk
Loot, Trailer: http://youtu.be/oqOZz0te0Js
Joe Orton: The Orton Diaries.