Joe Orton



  • (John Kingsley Orton; 1933 - 67) British playwright notedfor his black comedies, which combine genteel dialogue with violentand shocking action. Orton left home at 16 to train as an actor. Hissubversive style of humour first revealed itself in a bizarre incidentin 1962, when he and his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, were gaoled fordefacing library books. The two had carefully removed jacket blurbsfrom middle-brow novels and substituted their own, mostly scatological,counterfeits. Orton's best-known works are Entertaining Mr Sloane(1964), Loot (1966), a satire on the genre of detective fictionin which much of the comedy revolves around a corpse, and Whatthe Butler Saw, a farce about a deranged psychiatrist that wasfirst produced in 1969, with Ralph Richardson in the lead.

    Orton was a flamboyant homosexual in a period before the liberalizationof the British law, and this side of his life is described graphicallyin his posthumously published diaries. He was battered to death byHalliwell (who subsequently committed suicide) during a domestic argumentin 1967.