Joe jealous over Orton’s accomplishments and eventually Halliwell’s

Joe Orton, born in 1933 in Leicester, was an Englishplaywright and author who was known for shocking and entertaining his audienceswith his black comedies (The Sun 2017).In 1951, Orton won a scholarship to The Royal Academic of Dramatic Art (RADA)where he met Kenneth Halliwell.

Halliwell was his ‘friend, mentor, lover and,eventually, his murderer’ (Joe Ortonn.d.).     During his short public career starting from 1964 to histragic death in 1967, Orton’s plays were ‘part of the new counterculture thatshaped the Swinging Sixties’ (EdnaWelthorpe 2017). Orton, who was an openly working-class gay man at a time whenhomosexuality was still a crime, created plays which coincided with an excitingworking class culture which had influenced the country (Joe Orton n.d.

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). He created plays such as Entertaining Mr Sloane, Loot and What the Butler Saw which are ‘highly autobiographical, but theevents and characters of real life are farcically distanced and grotesquelystylised’ (Charney 1984), andexpressed ‘irreverence towards authority and mocked the Establishment’ (Edna Welthorpe 2017). His work wasextremely controversial, so much so that he had to undergo alterations to hisscripts by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office in order for his scripts to getlicensed.

 On 9th August 1967, Kenneth Halliwell brutallymurdered Joe Orton with a hammer to the head. He then overdosed on sleeping pillsand committed suicide. Halliwell suffered from severe depression which wasperhaps triggered by his mother’s death when he was a child and his father’ssuicide.

He was Orton’s tutor, mentor and lover, which eventually createdproblems for the couple as soon as Orton’s work started to become successful. Orton’sdeath mimics his plays as ‘lover’s actions in beating his brains out and thendestroying himself were consistent with the violent, reductive and morallyirresponsible world that Orton created in his own work’ (Bigsby 1982). It could be said that Halliwell was jealous overOrton’s accomplishments and eventually Halliwell’s contributions and ideas wereignored. Orton’s plays broke the boundaries and brought ‘homosexuality to thesurface, but his lover was still hidden away’ (The Guardian 2007). Halliwell was also a writer, but his partner’sachievements overshadowed his work.

His most famous words were the words thatclosed his suicide note: ‘If you read his diary all will be explained. KH. PSEspecially the last part.’ (The Guardian2007).

 Despite his career being extremely short, Joe Ortonentertained, amused and shocked his audiences with his remarkable, witty andscandalous black comedies that satirised social and sexual inequality (Edna Welthorpe 2017).   


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