Celebrating groundbreaking sixties playwright Joe Orton. 50 years since his murder at the hands of his lover, the film charts Joe's brief meteoric rise and tragic demise.
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This programme contains some strong language and adult humour
Only three more drama club performances to go now.
I feel a mixture of feelings after ten days
of speaking three lines a night and trying to look intelligent,
but I shall be very, very sad when it's over.
I've heard that Crouch, who plays Clarence in the show, is at RADA.
I'm wondering if I saved at least five shilling a week,
if I could go in the remote future.
Of course, I have no idea how much the fees are,
but if you want to make the stage your career, you must go to RADA.
CELL DOOR SLAMS SHUT
My father, who was a gardener,
was reading the Daily Mirror
and he came upon this headline that said, "Gorilla amongst the Roses".
Of course, him being a gardener, automatically started to read it
and released that his son, John Kingsley Orton,
had been arrested for the defacement of library books.
1959, I started work in Essex Road Library in Islington.
There were these two guys coming into the library all the time,
and that was Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell.
Orton was friendly. Halliwell would just smile at you ironically.
This is very much Britain in the early '60s.
Not a lot of people were very pleasant to a young black boy.
I enjoyed talking to him, partly for that reason,
but there was actually nothing about him
which would have made you think, "Ah-ha!
"Here's someone who was going to deface library books."
I realise it's unforgivable doing this. I'm just...unrepentant.
The libraries have a tremendous amount of space for rubbish
written by the likes of Lady Dartmouth and her ilk,
but not for good books, apparently.
It's not a matter of personal taste.
You can say when something is rubbish and something isn't.
Oh, John Betjeman, yes! This one, I remember.
Ah, that's lovely!
Then they watched while people browsed the books
to see if their satire had the effect that they wanted,
which was to shock and, in some way, create panic, almost.
It came to a head for me one morning when a woman came in.
She slammed a book down and she said,
"How dare you allow my 13-year-old daughter to take this book?!"
Collected Plays of Emlyn Williams.
"Up the front, up the back!"
"Fucked by Monty!"
We're public benefactors, in a way.
You wouldn't even begin to understand
the real reason we do these things.
It was like an early version of Banksy.
I think, partly, it was the trickster in them.
They were really not successful writing together.
They had all their early books, they had sent them all to...
to Faber and Faber, and they sent them all back,
saying that, "They're too odd for us.
"They're not what we would publish."
I think that irked them.
But sort of defacing the library book covers,
you can imagine they were having a lot of fun doing that.
People began to mention their names as suspects.
The suggestion was made
that they were two men living together in a room,
so they must be homosexuals.
Orton and Halliwell lived in a room that was probably 16x12.
Very, very small.
Two beds, a desk, these walls that were...
That looked like they'd been tattooed, almost,
with classical images.
So it was a very, very claustrophobic, small space.
When they went to court,
OK, they deserved a fine or some kind of slap on the wrist,
but...sending them to prison seemed well over the top.
My mother was sort of saying,
"I never liked that bloke he lived with. I never liked him.
"What on earth do you want to live with a bald-headed man for?"
He did send a letter home
saying that he didn't want anyone to send him any letters.
He didn't want any contact with the family at all.
I just thought, "What will happen to him?"
And it was the first time in their adult life
that they'd been separated.
I think prison may have been the making of him.
That's to say that it was in prison that he started to write
and sort of emancipated himself from the fact that he was writing...
When he was living with Kenneth, he was writing stuff
and Kenneth would then comment on it and, you know, correct it.
And in the process of correcting it,
would very likely rob it of its originality.
I had a wonderful time in prison.
I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
I didn't suffer the way Oscar Wilde suffered in prison,
but then Wilde was flabby and self-indulgent.
There's this complete myth about writers being sensitive plants. They're not.
There's absolutely no reason a writer shouldn't be as tough as a bricklayer.
He found it an exhilarating experience!
But, I mean, I think that's just a bit of bravado.
It made him see society
in a totally different way.
The experience must have influenced my writing,
though I couldn't say how very precisely.
It gave me time to turn over in my mind everything I'd been doing.
Time to think.
Before, I'd been vaguely aware of something rotten somewhere.
Prison crystallised this.
The old whore society really lifted up her skirt
and the stench was pretty foul.
Something had happened in there. He changed.
I think that he could separate,
detach himself from worrying about what people thought of him.
It was like, "You've sent me to prison for being a homosexual,
"although you never said that.
"You said it was for defacing library-book covers,
"but that was just a mask."
You know, so, "Up yours".
As soon as he felt he had a voice,
felt confident that he had a voice,
I mean, it was like uncorking a geyser.
In 1963, I was working in the BBC Radio drama department.
We had about 10,000 scripts a year. It was a hell of a lot.
And, er...this play came across the desk to be sent back.
And it had been seen by a lot of, it seemed to me,
rather elderly ladies, and they absolutely hated the play.
And I looked at it and read the first page,
and it was very unusual, and I thought,
"This is absolutely brilliant".
Have you got an appointment today?
Yes. I'm to be at King's Cross station at 11:00.
I'm meeting a man in the toilet.
You always go to such interesting places. Are you taking the van?
Er...no, it's still under repair.
Where did you go yesterday?
I went to Mikey Pierce's. I had a message to deliver.
Had a chat with a man who travels
in electrically-operated massage machines.
Bought me a ham roll.
Turns out he's on the run.
He didn't say as much in so many words, but I gathered.
The papers were on form this morning.
Are they? I'm glad people are still reading them.
I seen that a man had appeared in court
charged with locking his wife in a wardrobe.
She tells of her night of terror.
I mean, what a way to celebrate your wedding anniversary.
I'd do the same. I'd lock you up if you gave me cause for displeasure.
And in the local paper, I saw that there'd been an accident
involving a tattooed man.
He had a heart, a clenched fist and a rose, all on one arm,
and the name Ronny on his body in two different places.
Was that his name?
No, his name was Frank.
A van ran him down.
He came to see me at Broadcasting House and I said to him,
"Oh, what you have been doing the last few years?"
And he said "Well, actually, I've been in prison".
"Ooh", I said, sort of withdrawing a little bit.
So anyhow, we then discussed the play and I said,
"Well, I think we'll take it. We'll buy it".
And in the play, I'd cast Kenneth Cranham,
who was absolutely unknown. He was a schoolboy.
I think it's a rather poetic play and funny occasionally.
I was very impressed by it.
In fact, in some ways, it's still my favourite play of his -
about a mysterious outsider
bringing things to this house
and it turns out that there's all sorts of connections.
I've come about the room.
You must've come to the wrong door. Sorry if you've been troubled.
Can I come in? I've walked all the way here.
Just for a minute. I'm so busy. I'm run off my feet today.
How about a cup of tea?
You usually make one about now.
How do you know?
Oh, I pick up all sorts of useful information in my job.
And what's that?
I'm a gent's hairdresser - qualified.
I've clipped some notable heads in my time.
My brother was in the business, too,
until he was involved in an accident.
-A van knocked him down.
His funeral was attended by some interesting people.
He was a sportsman before his decease.
He wore white shorts better than any man I've ever come in contact with.
As a matter of fact, strictly off the record,
I'm wearing a pair of his white shorts at this moment.
-I wasn't mentioned in the press.
They didn't realise the important part I'd played in Frank's life.
My brother's fiancee had her photo taken - balling her head off.
Perhaps the accident unhinged her mind.
It wasn't an accident. He was murdered.
You don't know that.
Don't contradict me!
This is a private house, I'm not having perfect strangers talk to me like that!
Clear off! My husband will be back soon!
-He's not your husband!
-How dare you!
You're not married! You want to watch yourself.
I have a good mind to call a policeman!
-You don't have a telephone.
-I can knock on the floor!
-There's nobody downstairs!
I'll report you! You keep away!
If I were to assault you...
..would he avenge you?
I mean, I used to listen to the afternoon story
and I'd never heard anything like it.
They were terrific lines
and within a sort of a context of an underworld
that British drama at that time
had only just begun to explore with Pinter.
It's about the tension of an intruder and...
..becomes increasingly menacing.
You don't know why he's there, really,
and he provokes this couple.
If you're desperate for a room, I could put you up on the bed-settee.
It's quite comfortable.
-Is it new?
-I bought it a long time ago.
Couldn't afford such luxury today. Financially, I'm in a bad way.
Well, my money will help you out.
It's the Assistance Board. I don't believe in charity unless I need it.
My brother and me had the same trouble.
We lived in Shepherd's Bush. We had a little room
and our life was made quite comfortable by the Assistance Board for almost a year.
We had a lot of friends,
all creeds and colours,
but no circumstances at all. We were happy, though.
We were young. I was 17, he was 23.
You can't do better for yourself than that, can you?
We were bosom friends.
I've never told anybody that before.
I hope I haven't shocked you.
As close as that?
We had separate beds.
He was a stickler for convention.
But that's as far as it went.
We spent every night in each other's company.
It was the reason we never got any work done.
There's no word in the Irish language for what you were doing.
In Lapland, they have no word for snow.
I'd rather not hear. I'm not a priest, you know.
I wasn't with him when he died.
I'm going around the twist with heartbreak.
I thought of topping myself as a gesture,
but suicide is difficult when you've got a pious mum.
I don't want to live, see.
That's a crude way of putting it.
-You won't do it, though?
I've made a will, of course,
in case anything should happen in the future.
-What might happen?
-I might get killed.
-I don't know.
And what the young man arranges
is for the Irishman, the elderly Irishman, to shoot him.
Well, there was a longing to, I think,
cross over and be in the next life with this...
..brother who'd been so important to him,
and so he contrives his own death.
The BBC, they didn't want it to be clear that they were homosexuals,
so Joe made them brothers,
which made it even worse because it made it incest, as well,
so he got sort of a double-barrel shot at it.
I see the plot of a play as a piece of meat
that buries the hook of what the author has to say.
If I just offered the bare hook of what I want to say,
well, who'd put that in their mouths?
The recording was a very happy event
and Joe was there all the time.
He said, "Look, whilst I'm here,
"I've got another play I've written",
which was called Entertaining Mr Sloane.
And I laughed a lot and he said, "Do you like it?"
And I said, "Like it?" I said, "I think you need an agent."
I said, "I suggest you get in touch with a lady called Margaret Ramsey.
"Peggy Ramsey, we call her."
And I said to him, "She can be a bit of a cow".
Getting a call from Peggy was like someone saying,
"The police, for you".
About three days later, I would say, Peggy Ramsey phoned me
and she had this piercing voice, very theatrical!
She said, "John, darling, what's all this you've been calling me a cow all over London?"
I said, "I haven't, Peggy. No! No, I haven't. I promise, I haven't."
She said, "Yes, you have. This young man came in my office
"and you said to him that I was a cow.
"My darling, who IS this young man?"
Orton was seductive, he was charming, he was very funny.
I mean, she really was taken with him.
She didn't hang about, if she liked your stuff.
She would be ear-bashing some poor artistic director until he said yes.
She sent it to me and said, "Would you like this play?"
And I said, "I'll do it and get it on within six weeks", which we did.
I fell in love with it immediately.
Well, the script, to me, was almost as elegant as Jane Austen,
but saying the most, for then, rather horrifying things.
I hadn't been told much about Joe before I met him.
I found him a very quiet presence at first
and I realised after a while that he was like that
with everyone when he first met them.
That he had 438 brilliant feelers, out measuring, tasting
and getting a complete understanding of the person he was speaking to.
When Joe turned up, Halliwell would come with him
and seemed to regard that as a natural position.
He was rather like the elephant in the room.
I mean, it's easy with hindsight,
but he did look like Himmler or something. He looked...
When Ken was around, people became quite jumpy.
There was sort of jealously and anger
and suspicion emanating from him.
He was, to put it mildly...loathsome.
He was the opposite of Joe.
Halliwell was difficult because he would make claims
about co-authorship of Sloane, which was clearly not true.
He felt very possessive
and, eventually, he had this kind of attitude and this bad feeling
that was influencing the company. He was asked to leave rehearsals.
I mean, how Joe dealt with that when he got home of an evening, I don't know.
Joe's play is all that mattered to everybody who was there.
A rather dreadful lady of a certain age
leads into the drawing room of her home
a very young boy, whom she clearly fancies enormously,
introduces him to her father, who lives with her, she calls him Dada,
who is practically blind, and a peculiar dislike is expressed.
The old man stabs him with a toasting fork.
Did Dada attack you?
He's got an artery. I must be losing pints! Oh, Christ!
Oh, is it hurting you?
What a lovely pair of shoes you've got!
-I think I'm going to spew.
-Nah, I'll be all right.
I wonder, Mr Sloane, if you'd take your trousers off?
I hope you don't think there's anything behind the request.
I expect you guessed as much before I asked.
If you lift up, I'll pull them off.
SHE BREATHES HARD
Where is it, then?
-He attacked you from behind?!
Oh, well, if you ask me, it's only a deep scratch.
I don't think we'll require outside assistance.
Oh, don't be embarrassed, Mr Sloane.
I had the upbringing a nun would envy and that's the truth.
Until I was 15, I was more familiar with Africa than my own body.
That's why I'm so pliable.
Oh! You've the skin on you like a princess!
Better than one of those tarts you see dancing about on the telly.
I like a lad with a smooth body.
I've been doing my washing today.
I haven't a stitch on, except for my shoes.
I'm in the rude under this dress.
I tell you because you're bound to have noticed.
I've been worried for fear of embarrassing you.
Don't betray your trust!
-I just thought...
-I know what you thought!
You wanted to see if my titties were all my own! You're all the same!
Oh! I must be careful of you.
Have me naked on the floor, given half a chance.
Oh, if my brother were to know! He's such a possessive man!
Would you like to go to bed?
SHE BREATHES HARD
The resemblance between Kath and my mother
is startlingly obvious to members of the family.
Joe came home and brought a tape-recorder with him,
and put the microphone behind a loaf of bread
and he would record my mother.
And Joe was having to shove a handkerchief into his mouth
to make himself stop laughing.
All Joe's female characters, there's a love/hate relationship going on.
He loves to hate them.
Her brother then turns up, who seems to run a business
of very doubtful legality.
In fact, he seems to be a bit of a gangster, if anything.
But is powerful and...
disapproves entirely of what his sister is doing.
And it doesn't take you long to realise,
from his reactions to the boy,
that he also fancies the young boy.
Yeah, we had a nice little gym at the orphanage.
Put me in all the teams, they did.
pole-vault, long distance.
Yeah, yes, yes, yes,
I'm an all-rounder...
in anything you care to mention...
..even in life.
Little body-builder, are you? I bet you are.
Do you...do you exercise regular?
Good, good. Stripped?
And I box. I'm a bit of a boxer.
-You ever done any wrestling?
-I've got a full chest.
-Narrow hips, my biceps are...
-Do you wear leather?
Next to your skin?
Leather jeans, say, without...?
HE CHUCKLES Get away!
Question is, are you clean living?
You might as well know, I set a great store by morals.
There's too much of this casual bunking up nowadays.
There's too many lads getting ruined by birds.
I don't want you messing about with my sister.
-Have you made overtures to her?
Does she disgust you?
It's better if she did.
I've no interest in her.
I've a certain amount of influence, friends with money.
I own two cars.
You judge for yourself.
I generally spend my holidays in places where the bints have got rings through their noses.
Women are like banks, boy. Breaking and entering is a serious business.
You give me your word you're not...vaginalatrous?
I believe you.
When the script arrived for Entertaining Mr Sloane,
I took one look at it, I saw the subject and I just chucked it across the room
and I said, "I really don't want to do it."
And then my vanity crept in.
Ha-ha! Always a strong force.
Um...so I looked at it again and I thought,
"This is actually a very prominent part in a play in London."
And I realised that Sloane was not actually queer.
Sloane was... Sloane had a salami in his trousers,
with which he negotiated his life.
I'd seen quite a lot of that in the RAF.
Sloane makes a pragmatic decision
to come into the house,
sleep with the sister
and then also comes to an arrangement with the brother.
Now, it's my view that that is, in a sense,
psychologically, exactly what Orton was about.
Orton, we know, did have some heterosexual relations
prior to meeting Halliwell at RADA.
And I think underneath the comedy of this,
there is some admission of Orton's life in the drama.
You can't pin the tail on the donkey,
but I think that that reflects some aspect
of his own very ruthless pragmatism.
Let him choose. Let's have it in black and white, boy.
-I'm going with Ed.
-Is it the colour of the curtains in your room?!
-Is it because I'm pregnant?
No. Better opportunities. A new life.
You vowed you loved me!
-Never for a second.
-I was kind to you!
-And you're grateful?
-I paid, too.
Reputation ruined. Baby on the way!
-You had no reputation!
Is that what he's taught you?
I taught him nothing. He was innocent until you got your maulers onto him.
He'd packed the experience of a lifetime into a few short years.
Pure in heart, he was. He wouldn't know where to put it.
-I attracted him instantly.
-You couldn't attract a blind man.
Look in the glass, lady, let's all enjoy a laugh. What do you see?
-You've nothing to lure any man!
-Is that the truth, Mr Sloane?
-More or less.
Well, why didn't you tell me?
How could he tell you?! You showed him the gate of hell every night!
He abandoned hope when he entered there!
Mr Sloane...I believed you were a good boy.
I find you have deceived me.
You deceived yourself.
I was never subtle, Mr Sloane.
If you go with Eddie, I'll tell the police.
If I stay here, he'll do the same.
It's what is called a dilemma, boy. You're on the horns of it.
You see how things are, Mr Sloane?
We'll discuss the matter.
We need action, not discussion. Persuade her! Persuade her!
Don't use that tone of voice to me, boy. I'll not be dictated to.
An arrangement to suit all tastes,
that's what's needed.
Don't saddle her with me for life!
As long as you're prepared to accept the idea of a partnership.
Eddie, I think it's very clever of you to think of such a lovely idea.
Oh, he's close to tears! Isn't he sweet?
He's definitely attractive in adversity.
And I hadn't...was not much of a theatre-goer.
This sounded very, very intriguing, this play.
I think it was at Wyndham's.
I think I saved up and went and saw it.
The absolute sort of lack of moral judgment,
I found very attractive.
My impression was that the audience of Entertaining Mr Sloane
was a little bit baffled.
I mean, it still was the age of...
you know, cups of tea in the interval
and people standing up for the national anthem,
so some old man being beaten to death by a rent boy
behind a sofa was not what they were used to.
Joe kept a scrapbook on Sloane
and he filled it with all sorts of cut-outs
from different newspapers.
He was really proud of his success
and he wanted to record as much of it as he could.
You probably know about the notice we got in The Telegraph.
Well, the critic was a man called WA Darlington, who was of a great age,
and he ended his review by saying,
"I felt snakes were writhing at my feet".
And, of course, Edna Welthorpe writes back and said,
"I, too, felt that snakes were writhing around my feet.
"Well, let's hope that the general public will soon strike back."
Edna Welthorpe was a Mary Whitehouse figure...
..who wrote to the newspapers,
condemned and slammed Entertaining Mr Sloane.
Edna Welthorpe was the pseudonym of Joe Orton.
What was splendid about the play was that it was produced
in an atmosphere of the News of the World of salacious gossip, filth.
They loved filth!
People would come to the show looking for filth!
And, um...it was the time of Profumo.
Do you remember the scandal with...Christine Keeler?
The joy of Orton was his love of hypocrisy.
It then became extremely fashionable.
This was the thing that surprised us,
that we had the likes of Rattigan,
Vivian Lee and Peter Willes,
the head of TV drama, all taking Joe up.
It's hard to imagine having been in jail
and suddenly, within a year, going from that
to being celebrated as this new, promising author
of a hit West End play.
He's suddenly broken through.
It's jail that's helped me get this far.
It's no good saying it was hard work.
Now I've written two plays that have been produced.
It hasn't changed me, though, a bit of success.
I still like the same things,
only now I can have more of them.
I was walking one day along the King's Road
and Joe was walking towards me.
As we sort of passed each other, our eyes met...
..and I think there was a definite sort of attraction between us.
And we walked past each other
and then both stopped and looked back.
I was just feeling excited,
but I was slightly worried.
I wasn't really sure what was going to happen.
He then took me into a department store - Peter Jones.
We went down to the toilets,
then we became more intimately acquainted.
While we were in the toilet,
I was certainly concerned that somebody may come in.
I think that probably added to the frisson of excitement.
At the time, it was a bit like being a spy or something.
He had told me that he lived with Kenneth Halliwell.
We went back into the flat.
We weren't there all that long
and, um...suddenly Kenneth appeared, he came in.
And when we saw me, he was extremely annoyed
and asked who the hell I was.
But Joe was probably just sort of dangling this
in front of Kenneth a bit
and I got the feeling he did that a bit, sort of...
If you look at the structure of Entertaining Mr Sloane,
it's farcical in places.
He knew he wanted to write a farce.
He's looking for a form
in which he can essentially comment
both visually and verbally
more powerfully about society.
You're introduced to a typical family at a moment of bereavement
and you think, "Oh, my goodness, this is going to be a play
"about rather dull people".
And then extraordinary things start to come out.
The nurse is actually a murderess,
who's murdered several husbands before.
Your wife changed her will right before she died.
She left all her money to me.
-What? Is it legal?
She must have been drunk. What about me and the boy?
I'm surprised that you've taken this attitude. Have you no sense of decency?
Oh, it's God's judgment on me for marrying a Protestant!
How much has she left you?
£19,000, including her bonds and her jewels.
Employing you has cost me a fortune!
You must be the most expensive nurse in history!
You don't imagine I want the money for myself, do you?
-Well, that's unworthy of you!
I'm most embarrassed by Mrs McLeavy's generosity.
-You'll destroy the will?
-I wish I could.
-Why can't you?
-It's a legal document. I could be sued.
That's you. You'd never sue yourself!
I might...if I was pushed too far.
We must find a way of conveying the money into your bank account.
Couldn't you just give it to me?
Think of the scandal!
What do you suggest, then?
We must have a joint bank account.
Wouldn't that cause an even bigger scandal?
Not if we were married.
Married?! But then you'd have my money, as well as Mrs McLeavy's!
That's one way of looking at it.
Go ahead, ask me to marry you. I have no intentions of refusing.
Use any form of proposal you like. Try to avoid abstract nouns.
Well, everybody in the profession knew about it
because Kenneth Williams was playing the lead
and Kenneth Williams was a brilliant comic actor.
It was obviously an event that we were all waiting for.
We heard that, on tour, people had walked out and were furious
and disgusted by it,
but we also heard that it had been missproduced.
It had been given a heavily-stylised production.
And also, Kenneth Williams couldn't do anything else but the gags,
couldn't do the serious side of everything,
so the whole thing had been a disaster.
It was an all-star cast,
but they couldn't get to the...
The play wasn't working.
Orton wrote 100...nearly 150 pages of new material.
He was continually doing rewrites.
It was a nightmare.
We played Bournemouth with it,
which Kenneth Williams described as "the graveyard of our hopes".
A woman came up to me and shook her fist and said,
"It was Felicity's 21st,"
as if we'd ruined this poor girl's entry into womanhood.
Everyone is now on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Kenneth Williams is disastrous!
IMITATES KENNETH: "How many husbands have you had?"
And he wonders why he's not getting any laughs!
I wouldn't have believed when I wrote the play it could be this difficult!
I'll get back as soon as humanly possible, Ken.
I'm not gallivanting around down here.
It's the most depressing few weeks I've ever lived through!
The show closed miserably out of town
and, as far as Orton was concerned,
it was over and he was a failure.
And it was at that point I said, "You should meet Braham Murray".
Michael Codron phoned me and said,
"I have just done this production of Loot by Joe Orton,
"which I think is a brilliant play, and it failed,
"but I still believe in the play. Could you do it?"
Well, I read it, I loved it.
I worked with Joe
and I found him very much wanting to make things work,
wanting to make things happen.
He was an artist. Yes, he knew.
He believed he was writing something special
and he was right that he was.
And any great artist will go on doing it,
no matter what they're told.
Braham Murray got Orton to cut and shape the play,
and that production was considerably better,
and it was then brought into town by Charles Marowitz.
I got the part of Hal
and my companion was Simon Ward,
so we were quite...
sort of the blonde and the brunette, in a way.
And looking back, we were the ingenues.
You can see what Orton's doing.
Now the fun machine was starting to move.
People were in and out of doors, things were tipped over,
and you can see that he's teasing every piety
and turning it upside down and testing it.
The two boys are actually, apart from being lovers,
are robbers who have robbed a bank, which is next door.
Try to control yourself.
If I come back and find you've been telling the truth all afternoon, we're through.
It's a farce about a corpse
and how much reverence, if you like, is paid to a dead body.
Come here. Open the cupboard.
Why are you so interested?
Don't hesitate to obey me. Open the cupboard!
I...I've got something in there!
Where are you concealing the money?
In my mother's coffin.
This is unforgiveable!
I shall speak to your father!
She's standing on her head!
I want her buried. Are you prepared to help me?
I want the body stripped.
It isn't a thing someone of the opposite sex can do to a woman.
I'm her relative, which complicates the issue.
Put her in there.
Well, I need help getting her out of the cupboard!
-I'm not taking the head end.
-She won't bite! You have gloves on!
Oh, what was that?!
Nothing. It's nothing.
Lovely shaped feet your mother had, I mean, for a woman of her age.
What will you do with the money?
I might just run a brothel.
I'd run a two-star brothel
and, if I prospered, I'd graduate to a three-star brothel.
I'd advertise by appointment...
I'd have a spade bird, I don't agree with the colour bar,
and a Finnish bird.
-I'd make them kip together, bring out the contrast.
I'd have two Irish birds,
a decent Catholic and a Protestant.
I'd make the Protestant take the Catholics
and the Catholic take the Protestants. Teach them how the other half live.
Have you committed to removing the teeth?
I'd have a French bird and a bird who spoke fluent Spanish
and performed the dances of her native country to perfection!
I began writing at 11.
At 20 past, the telephone rang.
"I've rung to tell you your mum died this morning," the caller said.
Leonie rang at about six.
I promised to go home tomorrow.
As the corpse is downstairs in the living room, it means going out
or watching television with death at one's elbow.
My father, fumbling out of bed in the middle of the night,
bumped into the coffin and nearly had the corpse on the floor.
Leonie and I spent the afternoon
throwing out junk collected over the years.
I found a cup containing a pair of false teeth
and threw it in the dustbin,
then I discovered they belonged to my father and I had to rescue them.
I found my mother's teeth in a drawer, I kept them...
To amaze the cast of Loot.
And in the corridor, the long corridor underneath the Criterion,
he threw them through the air
and I cupped my hands to catch them and I saw what they were.
The ones I had in the show were pink and white, straight out of a shop.
These ones were all sort of green and mildewed
and chalky and horrible-looking. Eurgh!
And I behaved like a woman with a mouse.
KNOCK AT DOOR
-What's going on in this house?
We sat together in the stalls
and we were... I was laughing so much.
And I said to him, "I don't know how you get away with it".
I said, "Oh, Joe, I love it".
I mean, Loot was the play that broke Orton out, right?
It was a hit. It was a West End hit.
The balance was correctly found
between the farcical elements and the macabre tone.
The teasing of received opinion about the police.
I'm sure that his experience with the law and prison
were part of the creation of Loot,
that was really the main, the centre, of the comedy.
Orton used that idea of getting arrested for Truscott of the yard.
Now, then, I'm going to ask a few questions. You ever been in prison?
Stealing overcoats and biting a policeman.
The theft of an article of clothing is excusable,
but policemen, like red squirrels, must be protected.
You were rightly convicted. What you doing with this dummy?
-You taken up sewing?
-I was putting it in the cupboard.
-To keep it hidden.
Don't try to pull the wool over my eyes.
-Where's the money from the bank job?
-What bank job?
-Your mate says it's been buried.
-He's a liar!
It's a very sensible reply.
You're an honest lad, are you prepared to cooperate? I'll put a good word in for you.
-I don't want anybody seeing me talking to a policeman.
-I'm not a policeman.
No, I'm from the Metropolitan Water Board.
You're the law! You gave me a kicking down the station!
-I don't remember doing so.
-It's all in a day's work to you, isn't it?
-What were you doing down the station?
-I was on SUS.
-What were you suspected of?
-The bank job.
-You complain you were beaten?
-Did you tell anyone?
-The officer in charge.
-What did he say?
-He was out of breath with kicking.
I hope you're prepared to substantiate these accusations, lad.
-What evidence have you?
-What's the official version of those?
I can see nothing unreasonable in that.
If I ever hear you
accuse the police of using violence against a prisoner in custody again,
I'll take you down the station and I'll beat the eyes out of your head!
Now, get out!
And take that thing with you. I don't want to see it in here again.
Loot was a success and he was chic.
I mean, he was mordent, he was ironic,
he was absolutely quintessentially of the moment.
Ken was very much a part of that success.
The new production of Loot had brought them fresh hope
and he started appearing with Kenneth.
They would actually turn up at things together.
Joe's success in the theatre led him towards television plays.
Peter Willes was the head of Rediffusion Drama.
Peter Willes had this brilliant idea
of inviting established playwrights
to write for the medium of television.
Very fastidious gentleman.
He would come to the final run-through
and sit on a shooting stick
about a yard and a half away from you.
A lot of people were quite frightened of him,
which he rather enjoyed, I think.
Peter Willes became important to Joe
because, obviously, it helped his career
and Willes commissioned The Good and Faithful Servant.
Do come in!
The play is about the retirement of an old gentleman
and the way he's dealt with.
Um...which is horrifyingly
impersonal and insensitive.
And my character, Mrs Vealfoy, was head of personnel.
Your wife is dead.
Have you been feeding false information into our computers?
This woman is not my wife. I...I was young and foolish.
It all happened a long time ago.
I shall inform your section manager.
He must straighten this out with records.
It is a personal matter. My private life is involved.
Should your private life be involved,
we shall be the first to inform you of the fact.
And when you see Buchanan, it's got to be his father.
You had to know our father to see what a pathetic soul he was.
# Happy days are here again
# The skies above are clear again
# So let us sing a song of cheer again... #
He has this weak character and he keeps...
You know, that seems to be indelibly imprinted
in Joe's subconscious somewhere.
I think that Kenneth was becoming like that
and he was this sort of complaining, winging figure.
Kenneth was always there,
like a big, bloated spider sitting in the corner,
and he wanted to give the impression
that he was the one that was really behind the works.
And you could see that there was a tension between them.
Halliwell was envious.
He wanted to spoil Orton's parade.
Orton had to get out of there.
Life was drawing him out of there.
People wanted to know him.
Tonight, from London...
ORCHESTRA STRIKES UP
..The Eamonn Andrews Show!
A woman rang from the Eamonn Andrews Show,
asking me to be on it this Sunday.
They offered me £100.
Well, as I was saying, you're a very successful writer.
What about this business of spending six months in jail?
It had something to do with library books, hadn't it?
Um...well, yes, I used to do very strange things on library books.
It was really a joke.
He had acquired a name.
He was somebody.
He was suddenly meeting people and having an interesting life,
and going out of his room,
and that is what the diaries dramatise.
Brian Epstein's advisor rang while I was eating a meal
of mashed potatoes, tinned salmon and beetroot.
He asked me if I would like to meet the boys on Wednesday.
I was very impressed with this,
but I tried to put on a nonchalant manner.
Paul McCartney was just as the photographs,
only he'd grown a moustache.
He was playing the latest Beatles recording - Penny Lane.
I liked it very much.
Then he played the other side, Strawberry something.
I didn't like that one as much.
Joe really clicked in with the counter culture,
but in that period it was as if
everybody was riding a surfboard together.
"The only thing I get from theatre," Paul M said, "is a sore arse".
He said that Loot was the only play he hadn't wanted to leave before the end.
"I'd have liked a bit more," he said.
We talked of drugs.
I said I'd smoked hash in Morocco and the atmosphere relaxed a little.
I had a final word with Paul M.
"I'd like to do the movie," I said,
"there's just one thing we have to fix up".
"You mean the bread?" "Yes."
We smiled and parted.
I got a cab home.
He sent me a letter telling me
that his agent had secured a £10,000 fee.
The letter fell from my hands, I think,
because I was so astonished.
And I thought, "Wow!
"My brother is really rich!
"He's really made the grade!"
I spent the morning reading what I'd written of The Beatles script,
then I went to see the producer, Walter Shenson.
He was most concerned to impress upon me the boys shouldn't be made
to do anything in the film that might reflect badly upon them.
"The kids will imitate whatever the boys do," he said.
I hadn't the heart to tell him the boys in my script
have already committed adultery, been caught in flagrante,
become involved in dubious political activity,
dressed as women, committed murder and been put in prison.
And the script isn't finished yet.
The townsfolk won't tolerate your indiscretions any longer.
They have recently, with the destruction of the memorial
to the fallen of two world wars,
reached monumental proportions.
I met a man who said he was a World War II veteran.
He pressed the wreath into my hands,
begging me to place it under the plaque to his fallen comrades.
This, I did. Shortly afterwards, the memorial exploded.
I had nothing whatever to do with the outrage.
Never in the whole of my life have I heard anything so lame and stupid!
I won't waste more time discussing your conduct!
I'll come straight to the point.
At 4:00am this morning, my own niece, Rowena Torrance,
was seen to enter your room in an advanced state of nudity.
What excuse had she for being with you at that hour?
She'd come to...borrow a cup of sugar.
She's on a diet!
-I didn't give into her demands.
-Was she provocative?
Nobody's provocative at four in the morning.
It wasn't me who let your niece into the room.
That isn't true. I saw the incident with my own eyes.
Do you confirm that, Superintendent?
I handed you the binoculars myself.
And you left the blind up, as well, McTurk.
The last indulgence of a sensualist.
Hm! My niece, upon careful scrutiny,
appears to be as much in need of repair
as the memorial to the fallen.
For your outrage upon the living
and your friend's outrage upon the dead,
the city fathers have decided to expel you both from this fair city.
Can't I see Rowena to say farewell? I-I love her very much!
It seems a pity not to return a cup of sugar.
He didn't take the commission that seriously.
He sort of... He just tossed, no pun intended, he tossed it off.
He wanted to put The Beatles
in a lot of compromising sexual positions, you know,
and I think that was the thing that actually got the script killed.
That's a Dionysian impulse.
This is the spirit of a great comic writer.
It's infantile, it's crazed, it's vindictive.
His ambition here is to drive an audience crazy.
Joe did push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable.
I mean, even today I have at home
some really outrageous, still unpublished stuff.
It shows that Joe always wants to be really provocative.
He really wants to shock you.
It does shock you, but it's still funny.
I'd been asked to do a sketch to do with sex for a review that's
being put on.
Kenneth Tynan is involved.
He said there was going to be no phoney artistic shit.
Since the review is called Oh! Calcutta!,
it begins with an artistic title.
I wasn't going to put myself out, but then
I found an old pornographic sketch I wrote long before Sloane or Ruffian.
I typed it up, reworked some of the pornographic elements
and posted it off.
They can have the sketch...if they dare to do it.
I can't get it enough.
Poor Auntie. Your old hole is never satisfied.
How can it be?
I haven't had anyone interfere with me since I was two...
Except my old English sheepdog and you occasionally.
Oh, never mind, dear.
Charles has promised to bring a friend over
to poke you one of these days.
I know, dear, but Charles has promised to bring this
hypothetical friend for so long, but he always disappoints me.
Have you tried a rolled up copy of a Lady's Friend?
I've tried everything from the London Illustrated News
to Peg's Paper.
None of them has the correct...pliancy and...verve.
Well, of course, you could always borrow Charles.
-Oh, shush! Here he is now.
Hello, Eliza. Oh, I feel shagged out.
We were just talking about you.
Couldn't we have it in less, Laura?
My balls feel as though they're made of cotton wool.
What on earth is the matter with you, Eliza?
Laura hoped that you might have
managed to give it to me for a change.
You see, poor Auntie hasn't had good shag since she was two.
When would you like it?
Well, now please, if you could manage.
My dear, if only I could.
But you see, Laura gave me one of her vacuum sessions.
The end of the vacuum cleaner is fitted over the end of...
If only I had a prick, instead of this smelly, old hole,
I could have such a time.
Ugh! I am frustrated, I have been for years.
Don't talk to me about frustration.
When I was little, I used to hang around outside
the headmaster's study in the hope of getting a good thrashing.
Other boys used to be caned, whipped.
-I got nothing.
-How humiliating for you.
I say, Eliza, you're in luck.
I knew, if you went on discussing school
and flagellation, you'd get yourself worked up into such a state.
Stand by the day bed, Eliza!
I shall make a charge at you!
Just lift your dress higher!
Oh, Auntie, I must see!
MOANING AND SCREAMING
Thank you, Charlie, dear.
I didn't cum, Eliza.
I couldn't manage it, so I just peed up you.
Well, whatever you did, Charles, it was very nice.
Whatever is the matter with you, Laura?
While you were diddling Auntie, I got carried away with
several reels of embroidery cotton.
I'm afraid the lime green and vermilion
are still wedged in my maze.
Oh, really, Laura, how inconsiderate of you!
I need the lime green for my table runner.
Joe enjoyed his sex, I think. Yes, he did.
When I first read Joe's diaries,
I was shocked...
of him going to public lavatories
and parading himself and...
I don't know, use the rough trade for sex.
On the way home, I met an ugly Scotsman who said
he liked being fucked.
I fucked him against a wall.
The sleeve of my rain mac is covered in white wash from the wall.
It won't come off.
I hate Christmas.
Joe was having such success alone
that he was...
beginning to realise that that is perhaps where the future lay.
And...things that were happening to him,
like meeting Paul McCartney and things like that, he didn't
go home to Kenneth, he came straight to the theatre to tell me
and Simon Ward and, of course, we loved hearing these stories.
Kenneth was moving further and further away.
And Kenneth, when he felt threatened by whoever it was,
he would actually kick up.
They would go to Morocco and there was quite a long tradition
of it, almost, that there was some sort of sexual freedom there.
When they were in Morocco, they seemed very happy together.
I think that that was their new life.
I remember I got a card from Kenneth and Joe when they were in Tangier,
which had a lot of Moroccan boys with snakes curling round them,
and the message was,
"The snakes are real. The boys are stuffed. Love, Joe and Ken."
So they obviously saw eye to eye on that sort of thing.
They were more relaxed.
There wasn't a tension of him, or rather Joe,
going off and seeing all these - inverted commas -
Just after these were taken, I lay naked on the terrace
trying to get my back and buttocks a decent colour.
I burned my bum a bit.
I took a shower and then Nasim arrived.
We had a long sex session.
I'd frequently given my best sexual performance with people
I didn't love, in fact, rather despised.
I fucked the arses off ageing queens,
but found a beautiful, young boy too difficult to cum...
because I loved him too much.
After a lunch of hard-boiled eggs and cold potatoes,
I got down to work.
Larbe arrived and, after lemon tea,
he disappeared into the bedroom with Kenneth.
So Halliwell can be happier in that climate, where he's not
humiliated and internally reminded of his failure.
Kenneth and I sat talking of how happy we both felt
and how surely it couldn't last.
We'd have to pay for it or be struck down from a fire by disaster.
To be young, good-looking, healthy, famous, comparatively rich
and happy is surely going against nature.
The minute they set foot in London,
Halliwell is the factotum,
if anything, and Orton is the man.
Everybody in, it seems, in the theatre world
wanted Joe and nobody wanted to meet Kenneth Halliwell.
Peter Willes actually referred to Kenneth Halliwell as being like
a writer's wife, and he'd had all these problems with writers' wives,
and I think he thought that Kenneth now was holding Joe back.
I was taken by Joe to a party in the Pall Mall area
in a very grand room.
Peter Willes used to like to mix his connections with aristocracy
with the theatrical avant-garde, he quite liked that frisson.
And Harold Pinter was very at ease there
and Joe was rather taken with it all, too.
Kenneth writes on the wall when Joe comes home,
"Joe Orton is a spineless twat."
I'm not sure how much of that sort of abuse a partner can take.
Kenneth is suffering from tightness in the chest.
Today's argument went on for the best part of the morning.
He suddenly shouted,
"I hope I die of heart disease. I'd like to see how you manage then.
"When I'm not around, you won't be able to write in this flip way."
The inference that I don't know how cruel and senseless life is hurt me.
"I won't have you monopolising the agony market!" I shouted in a fury.
I think it's bad that we live in each other's pockets 24 hours a day,
365 days a year.
Clearly, Kenneth had mental health problems.
Kenneth was seeking psychiatric help.
I believe that that's where the plot
for What The Butler Saw came from
because it's set in a psychiatrist's private clinic.
He must have been retelling Joe about what was happening
in this psychiatrist's chair.
Madness is the order of the day.
What The Butler Saw is his masterpiece.
There's something healing about it.
It's just so bold and nobody remotely came close to that
in English or Western theatre.
It's just... He's way out there.
Orton makes the genre of farce,
makes it a metaphor for a psychotic breakdown.
The psychiatrist and the inspector of psychiatry, Dr Rance,
are both clearly off their heads.
Good morning, are you Dr Prentice?
Yes, have you an appointment?
No, I never make appointments.
I'd like to be given details of your clinic.
You specialise in the complete breakdown and its by-products?
Yes, but it's highly confidential.
My files are never open to strangers.
You may speak freely in front of me.
I represent Her Majesty's Government,
your immediate superiors in madness.
I'm from the commissioners.
-The mental branch.
Do you cover asylums proper or just houses of tentative madness?
My brief is infinite.
I'd have sway over a rabbit hutch
if the inmates were mentally disturbed.
You're obviously a force to be reckoned with.
I hope our relationship will be a pleasant one.
Why are there so many doors?
Was the house designed by a lunatic?
Yes. We have him here as a patient from time to time.
Is your couch regulation size? It looks big enough for two.
I do double consultations.
Toddlers are often terrified of a doctor,
so I've taken to examining their mothers at the same time.
Has the theory received much publicity?
I don't approve of scientists that publicise their theories.
I must say I agree with you.
I wish more scientists would keep their ideas to themselves.
Is this something to do with you, Prentice?
It's a prescription, sir.
"Keep your head down and don't make a sound."
Do you find your patients react favourably to such treatment?
I can claim to have had some success with it.
Your ideas are, I think, in advance of the times.
There's a naked woman behind there.
People are being punished by the velocity of farce.
In other words, at a certain speed, all things disintegrate.
I think it does coincide with the fact
that Kenneth is having psychiatric treatment.
Went to Peter Willes' for dinner.
When we got there, he stared at Kenneth in horror.
"That's an old Etonian tie", he screeched.
"Yes," said Kenneth, "it's a joke".
Willes wrinkled up his face in an evil sort of way,
"Well, I'm afraid it's a joke against you, then.
"People will imagine you're passing yourself off as an old Etonian.
"It will make them angry."
"I don't care," Kenneth said, laughing a little too readily,
"I want to make them angry."
"But why?" Willes said. "People dislike you enough already.
"I mean, it's permissible as a foible of youth,
"but you, a middle-aged nonentity, it's sad and pathetic."
After an uneasy silence, a sort of rapprochement was restored.
The conversation drifted on in a desultory way
until Kenneth exploded.
"All you people that are mad on Joe really have no idea what he's like."
"I'm not mad on Joe. Whatever do you mean?"
I think he wanted Joe to himself, not necessarily sexually,
but Joe was a great prize
and because Joe was particularly involved in breaking the bounds
of sexual freedom, whatever, and Peter Willes was thrilled by this.
Took a walk.
Nobody to pick up, only a lot of disgusting old men.
I shall be a disgusting old man myself one day,
I thought, mournfully.
Only I have high hopes of dying in my prime.
The last time I saw Joe was when he came to Leicester, August 1st.
I pushed my new baby in a pram
and he said, "Oh, I'll push the pram."
And then I left to go home
and he kissed me and he said, "Keep writing to me.
"If you write to me, I'll always answer your letters."
And then he was gone, and I never saw him again.
My brother says,
"I've got to go down and I've got to identify the body."
And then when he came back, he said,
"It's Ken, you know, he's done him in".
I said, "What was the flat like?"
He went, "Oh, it was awful," he said, "it was like somebody
"had just thrown a tin of red paint all over the walls."
Kenneth's just gone mad, just hit him with a hammer.
Just kept hitting him with a hammer.
We actually found out about the murder of Joe
in the newspaper,
and we had to go in and do the play that night.
It was standing room only, it was packed.
We were running around with the body
and suddenly the lines all started to have different meanings.
And you heard them for the first time, these lines of dialogue,
which you hadn't noticed before.
They suddenly resonated in a different way.
And Kenneth's suicide note says,
"If you read his diary, all will be explained."
And then there's a PS that says, "Especially the latter part."
And the latter part is clearly missing.
The diary ends on August the 1st
and Joe was killed on August the 9th.
And also, it ends in mid-sentence.
There was missing pages, clearly there was missing pages.
What happened to them is a mystery.
I spoke to Peggy very soon after she'd had to go
and identify the bodies, or Kenneth's body.
She said to me, "I don't want to talk about it, darling.
"All I can tell you is that there was blood on the ceiling."
However, she had the presence of mind to slip Joe's diaries
into her capacious handbag, under the noses of the officials
that had taken her to the scene of the crime.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what happened to the
missing pages - who had them? Were they destroyed by Peggy?
But I've come to believe that it may be that the
diaries are the things, the object themselves, that were the issue.
Orton wrote these diaries at a desk that was unlocked.
The diaries were there clearly for Halliwell to read.
I think the diaries were meant, strategically,
to help Orton leave Halliwell.
You could say it was an act of moral cowardice.
"Dear Peggy, the journal, this must be guarded.
"As he was writing it, on your advice,
"so as pray God you are literary executer, this will be protected.
"My love, Peter."
Certainly I think that Peter Willes
almost single-handedly brought about the murder.
I would nominate Peter Willes as murderer number one
because he made no hiding of his contempt for Ken...
..and his exclusion of Ken.
I know that Willes, sort of, was aware...
..that Kenneth was ill.
Peter Willes was attacking Halliwell
almost on a regular basis.
I mean, there was a real undermining of Kenneth Halliwell.
And he referred him to his doctor,
a psychiatrist called Dr Ismay,
and Ismay said that he was in a psychotic state
and he was a complete, utter mess, really.
Ismay was more than likely relaying to Peter Willes
what was happening with Kenneth Halliwell.
Peter Willes, I've known him for a long time
and anybody he sends me, I tend to bend over backwards.
Halliwell, yes, he was unable...
He wasn't functioning.
He was in a deep depression,
serious enough to consider admission to hospital, and I may have
interpreted that way because of what Peter Willes told me.
I think there was something Machiavellian going on
with this doctor.
I think Peter Willes is a nasty piece of work.
I thought he was suicidal, but I never thought he was homicidal,
so can you imagine the shock?
I felt, in a sense, responsible, although I wasn't,
but no idea that it would end in such a horrific murder.
In the last two days of his life,
there are a series of events...
He was about to be sectioned the following day.
Because when I described to the psychiatrist on the phone
about this man, Halliwell, he thought
he sounded seriously ill enough to warrant immediate admission.
I spoke to Halliwell that night three times on the telephone
to find out how he was, it might have been,
and then setting up the arrangement and then letting him know,
and then he phoning me back wanting to cancel it.
Him realising that he was going
to be separated permanently from Joe
and that sent him...
It was, if you like, the straw that broke the camel's back.
Orton was called by someone inviting him to a party,
but it was not Orton who answered the phone,
but Halliwell impersonating Orton.
And the man at the other end said,
"Whatever you do, Joe, don't bring Halliwell."
He learned that Orton had betrayed him
and had not invited him to this party.
The humiliation was double that now Joe even was, on some level,
ashamed of him.
He was at a knife edge.
And although he called Dr Ismay back
and said that the pills that he'd been given were working
and he felt calmer, perhaps in that calm state
allowed him to, sort of, decide to murder Orton.
Hilarium Memoriam Joe Orton,
written and read at my funeral by Donald Pleasence, the famous actor.
Some met together when he died, not in the name of any god,
but in his name, whom they lost to the coffin.
The box which brought him endless mirth.
The lesson which he could not read again.
Hilarity in death.
Joe Orton Laid Bare celebrates the wit, work and world of groundbreaking sixties playwright Joe Orton in his own words and those of friends and colleagues. 50 years since his murder at the hands of his lover Kenneth Halliwell, the film charts Joe's brief meteoric rise and tragic demise, and celebrates his unique comic voice as well as his significant role in the culture of 60s swinging London.
Antony Sher, Freddie Fox and Jaime Winstone lead an all-star ensemble cast, bringing to life excerpts of Orton's hilarious work for the TV generation, while Bryan Dick plays Orton himself, walking the viewer through the streets Joe inhabited and using his diary to revive the voice of one of Britain's most controversial comic writers.
The film builds to a tense and surprising conclusion as the circumstances of Joe's death are re-examined and new evidence reveals a sinister and powerful figure at the centre of events that led to his murder. Interviewees include Kenneth Cranham, Sir Michael Codron, Christopher Hampton, Patricia Routledge, Orton biographer John Lahr and Joe's sister Leonie.