Extract from The Ruffian on the Stair



“I’m to be at King’s Cross station at eleven. I’m meeting a man in the toilet”.

Written in 1963, The Ruffian on the Stair was first broadcast by the BBC in 1964. It made its first stage performance in a production without décor at the Royal Court Theatre in 1966. A re-written version appeared at the same venue in 1967 as part of a double bill entitled Crimes of Passion.

The play centres around three characters, Wilson, Mike and Joyce. Wilson forces himself into the home of Mike, a petty crook and Joyce, a former prostitute. Mike has run down Wilson’s brother in his van and while Mike is out, Wilson terrifies Joyce who is alone at home.

Wilson: Do you know that I could murder you. Easy as that.

The play reaches its climax when Wilson, grief stricken and out for revenge, goads Mike into killing him by claiming to be having sex with Joyce.

The BBC paid Orton £65 for the 45 minute radio play, a re-write of The Boy Hairdresser, a novel written with Kenneth Halliwell between 1959 –60. The play provides a taster of what was to be three staple ingredients of Orton’s future work - murder, homosexuality and incest. The 1966 Royal Court re-write differs substantially from the 1963 BBC version.

“I forbid the Royal Court to use the version of The Ruffian on the Stair printed in the BBC book of radio plays. I absolutely wont have that version performed anywhere!!” Joe Orton

Image: Courtesy The Orton Estate/Joe Orton Collection at the Library of the University of Leicester   Text © Leicester City Council / Orton Quotes: © The Orton Estate  

Copyright Notice: Reproduction of material on Joe Orton Online is not permitted without prior approval from the owner of the
relevant intellectual property rights. For full terms of use click here
Joe Orton Online was created and developed by Alison Forsythe.
Web Design © Alison Forsythe.