A beginner's guide to Joe Orton


1. Joe wrote a screenplay for The Beatles in 1967, at the height of their fame. ‘Up Against It’ was to be The Beatles third film, however, it was considered to be too risqué and the project was abandoned.

2. Joe and his partner, Kenneth Halliwell were sent to prison for six months for defacing library books from Islington Library.

3. Joe failed his Eleven Plus exams.

4. In 1957, Joe begins writing as ‘Edna Welthorpe’ and used other pseudonyms throughout his career. The spoof letters of complaint represented the conservative views of society in the 1960’s.

5. Joe’s actual name is John, however his agent, Peggy Ramsey, suggested using the name ‘Joe’ to distinguish himself from John Osborne.

6. In 1967, Joe received an Evening Standard Award, Best Play for Loot.

7. At Joe’s funeral, as the coffin was brought in, his favourite Beatles song, A Day in the Life, was played with the psychedelic passages crudely removed.

8. In his short career, Joe’s published work included three stage plays, four short plays for radio and television, one film script and one posthumously published novel.

9. The adjective Ortonesque is sometimes used to refer to work characterised by a similarly dark yet farcical cynicism.

10. In 1987, the film, Prick Up Your Ears, based on Joe's diaries and John Lahr's biography, was released. Written by Alan Bennett and directed by Stephen Frears, the film starred Gary Oldman as Orton, Alfred Molina as Halliwell and Vanessa Redgrave as Ramsay.

We need your help to raise £10,000 to make this exhibition happen. Together, we can celebrate the life and work of Joe Orton and continue to ensure that his legacy lives on. Thank you!

Back to top
One moment please