Wednesday 3 February 2010

The LGBT History Series (3) - Joe Orton

Today's blog is about the Leicester-born and bred playwrite, Joe Orton (1933-1967).
Joe Orton could be seen as a teenager defacing library books in the City Library, (which are now part of the Joe Orton Special Collection, available for viewing at the David Wilson Library) but had a strong interest in performing arts, body-building and elocution and got accepted on scholarship to RADA in 1950.

Before he left for London, I'm reliably informed that Orton had his first homosexual experience in the toilets of the Athena (then the Odeon), just across the way from today's 'Curve'. I for one am waiting for the blue plaque and the Scheduled Monument status in that toilet. During his study at RADA he met his partner Kenneth Halliwell and they moved into a flat in London. 17 years later, the chauffeur picking Orton up for a meeting with the Beatles about a screenplay would discover Orton's and Halliwell's bodies in the flat after a murder-suicide when Orton admitted to having another boyfriend.

But in the meantime, Joe Orton had a career writing outrageously macabre comedy plays of varying success. Plays to note include 'Entertaining Mr Sloane', 'Loot', and 'What the Butler Saw'.

Various editions of Orton's diaries can be found in the University Library and the City Library (which fortunately now celebrates him, despite the whole book-defacing thing), his plays are still popular (LUT performed 'Loot' in 2008), and his life has been made into a film starring Gary Oldman as Joe Orton.