are meant to understand, sir, that with madness, as with
vomit, it’s the passer- by who receives the inconvenience”.
The original version of The Erpingham Camp was produced
by Rediffusion TV in 1966. It made its first stage performance
at the Royal Court Theatre in 1967 as part of a double
bill entitled Crimes of Passion.
The Erpingham Camp is based on Euripides Greek tragedy,
The Bacchae. Orton set his version in a British holiday
camp run by Erpingham, a man who sees himself as a leader
ruling over an empire;
Erpingham: This is my kingdom. I make the
As with Pentheus in The Bacchae, the prudish Erpingham
has no time for rowdy behaviour and suspects sexual debauchery
to be taking place at all times. Ultimately, as with Pentheus,
Erpingham is struck down in a riot fuelled not by religious
frenzy but by righteous indignation.
The Erpingham Camp allowed Orton to target the hypocrisy
of people in power who obsessively repress self-expression
in its many forms. The church was also targeted for its
Padre: Its life that defeats the Christian
Church, she’s always been well equipped to deal
“Erpingham is the best stage play of mine performed
so far. If only Arthur Lowe were playing Erpingham they’d
all be raving…” Joe Orton