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John 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 …’

In 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.


Leonie Orton's new Memoir 'I Had it in Me' to be published in October 2016

I Had it in Me - A Memoir
Leonie Orton
Published by Quirky Press 21st October 2016

I Had It In Me is the memoir of Leonie Orton, Joe's youngest sister. Leonie tells her own story of growing up on a Leicester council estate in the 1940s and 1950s as her brother rose to become a remarkable writer. For the first time
she recounts how the family coped with his brutal murder and lost diaries.
She also describes her fight to educate herself, nurture her own family
and eventually take over the management of her brother’s legacy.

Leonie will be talking about her new book on Radio 4 on Loose Ends on Saturday October 8th at 6.15 along with novelist Jake Arnott.

The Visa Affair dramatised by Jake Arnott
Based on the original story by Joe Orton.
Additional material contributed by Joe's sister Leonie Orton.
Sunday 9th October at 9.00 -10.15pm on BBC Radio 3

More details and links here

Image: Courtesy The Leicester Mercury   Text © Leicester City Council  

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