Joe Orton Online


Joe Orton by John Haynes.

Last April I wrote that pioneering gay playwright Joe Orton was poorly represented on the web, unaware at the time that an official Orton site was being planned. Now web designer Alison Forsythe has written to say that the site was launched yesterday on what would have been Orton’s 75th birthday.

Joe Orton Online is exactly the resource I’d been looking for, with detailed information about the writer and a wealth of biographical material, reminiscences from collaborators and enthusiasts and a collection of ephemera. It’s especially good to be able to see the library books which Orton and his partner Kenneth Halliwell defaced (I’d say improved) for their own amusement, and which led to them receiving short prison sentences for vandalism.


Two of the defaced library books.

Also present are a number of manuscript extracts, including samples of his very early works, and some of the “Edna Welthorpe” letters, another Joe and Ken wheeze which adopted the persona of a priggish middle-aged woman to poke fun at the Welthorpes of the world by agreeing with their petty outrages.

For those impatient with the written word, there’s a fair amount of Orton-related material on YouTube, including what appears to be all of Prick Up Your Ears. (Buy the DVD you cheapskates!) Most fascinating and valuable for Ortonites is a section of a documentary about Kenneth Williams which discusses the actor’s association with Orton and features a rare TV appearance by the man himself.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The lost boys: Brian Epstein, Joe Orton and Joe Meek
Joe Orton

11 thoughts on “Joe Orton Online”

  1. Damn, you did have a good time then, seeing the Neville Brody exhibition as well. I was in London a couple of times during the same year but missed all of that.

  2. That’s right! It was brilliant. I was so bored and frustrated with the guy I was backpacking with, that by the time we arrived in London we spent a week apart. He went off to do whatever, while I set out on Andrew’s Cultural Tour of London. Museums, galleries, theatre, nightclubs, Camden markets… even meeting a hot Scotsman and getting laid after a night of drinking and dancing at The Bell.

    Ah good times. In 1988 all the boys had thick soled Doc Martens, 501s, crewcuts, leather jackets layered over denim jackets (it was early Spring) and I thought they were indescribably sexy. Now in hindsight they all looked like Bros…

  3. Ah yes, I remember that look. Didn’t like it at all (it was a Face/iD magazine-derived style which I loathed) although I did have a pair of Docs myself. But my monotonous wardrobe meant tight black jeans and the same black leather jacket I’d had since 1981. Oddly enough, the two lesbian friends I stayed with in London that year dressed just like the boys you describe!

  4. “prick up your ears” may also be read as “prick up your arse”
    dig the subtext, oh that orton he was a witty bugger. His plays got me through a certain period (one of many in an ongoing series) of teenage angst. I got by reading him, genet and burroughs, since i was “the only gay in the village”, I spent alot of time in the library…

  5. And some of the poster art for the film acknowledged the double entendre:

    (You’ll need to copy and paste the link, it gives a 403 otherwise.)

    I was the same, first encountering Burroughs in the library, and Entertaining Mr Sloane on TV. I often have to remind people that legal porn in Britain was a very recent thing. In the Eighties everything hardcore was banned, all the mags were softcore and gay material was way down the list of priorities for those dealing in the illicit stuff. Sounds like the dark ages to describe this now.

  6. bwa ha ha ha good poster!
    I was looking at it all wtf? how is this sexual, then i was like oh riiiight.

    omg no porn in the eighties! and it was like the perfect decade for it, oh well I guess you could just do more coke and roll around in your money-pile to forget the situation….

  7. People with the money and the coke had access to the porn, whether imported video tapes or copies that frequently retailed for up to £50. Us poor boys had to beg borrow or steal what we could.

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