Kingsley Orton was born in Leicester in 1933 and from
the age of two, lived on the Saffron Lane council estate.
After winning a scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met Kenneth
Halliwell, an actor and writer seven years his senior.
Halliwell would become Orton’s friend, mentor, lover
and, eventually, his murderer.
Between 1964 and 1967, Joe Orton contributed to an exciting
working class culture that swept through the nation. A
promiscuous and openly gay man at a time when homosexuality
was actively persecuted by the police, Orton was the rising
star of an ‘alternative British intelligentsia’.
His first stage play, Entertaining Mr Sloane, was a huge
success while his second, Loot, won the coveted Evening
Standard award for Best Play. However, Orton’s success
as a playwright and celebrity put a distance between himself
and Kenneth Halliwell that the latter found increasingly
difficult to cope with.
In August 1967 Halliwell, by now suffering from severe
depression, murdered Orton before killing himself. His
suicide note referred to the contents of Orton's diary
as an explanation of his actions: ‘If you read his
diary, all will be explained …’
his short but prolific career, Joe Orton amused audiences
with his scandalous black comedies. This site explores
the life and times of the man who made religion, sex and
death outrageously funny.