Joe Orton

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John Kingsley "Joe" Orton (1 January 19339 August 1967) was an English playwright.


Loot (1965)[edit]

Act I[edit]

  • Fay: You've been a widower for three days. Have you considered remarrying yet?
    McLeavy: No.
    Fay: Why not?
    McLeavy: I've been so busy with the funeral.

  • Fay: The priest at St Kilda's has asked me to speak to you. He's very worried. He says you spend your time thieving from slot machines and deflowering the daughters of better men than yourself. Is this a fact?
    Hal: Yes.
    Fay: And even the sex you were born into isn't safe from your marauding. Father Mac is popular for the remission of sins, as you know. But clearing up after you is a full-time job. He simply cannot be in the confessional twenty-four hours a day. That's reasonable, isn't it? You do see his point?

  • Fay: Have you known him long?
    Hal: We shared the same cradle.
    Fay: Was that economy or malpractice?
    Hal: We were too young then to practice and economics still defeat us.

  • Fay: What will you do when you're old?
    Hal: I shall die.
    Fay: I see you're determined to run the gamut of all experience.

  • Hal: Bury her naked? My own mum? It's a Freudian nightmare.
    Dennis: I won't disagree.
    Hal: Aren't we committing some kind of unforgivable sin?
    Dennis: Only if you're a Catholic.
    Hal: I am a Catholic. I can't undress her. She's a relative. I can go to Hell for it.
    Dennis: I'll undress her then. I don't believe in Hell.
    Hal: That's typical of your upbringing, baby. Every luxury was lavished on you - atheism, breast-feeding, circumcision. I had to make my own way.

  • Fay: The Ten Commandments. She was a great believer in some of them.

  • Dennis: She's turned me down. She's broken my heart.
    Hal: She doesn't know what she is missing, baby.
    Dennis: But she does! That's what's so humiliating.

  • Fay: Your explanation had the ring of truth about it.. Naturally I disbelieved every word.

  • Truscott: Why aren't you both at the funeral? I thought you were mourners.
    Fay: We decided not to go. We were afraid we might break down.
    Truscott: That's a selfish attitude to take. The dead can't bury themselves, you know.

  • Truscott (shouting, knocking Hal to the floor): Under any other political system I'd have you on the floor in tears!
    Hal (crying): You've got me on the floor in tears!

  • Truscott: And you complain you were beaten?
    Dennis: Yes.
    Truscott: Did you tell anyone?
    Dennis: Yes.
    Truscott: Who?
    Dennis: The officer in charge.
    Truscott: What did he say?
    Dennis: Nothing.
    Truscott: Why not?
    Dennis: He was out of breath with kicking.

Act II[edit]

  • Truscott: Do you realize what I'm doing here?
    McLeavy: No. Your every action has been a mystery to me.
    Truscott: That is as it should be. The process by which the police arrive at the solution to a mystery is, in itself, a mystery.

  • Fay: I'm innocent till I'm proved guilty. This is a free country. The law is impartial.
    Truscott: Who's been filling your head with that rubbish?
    Fay: I can't be had for anything. You've no proof.
    Truscott: When I make out my report I shall say you've given me a confession. It could prejudice your case if I have to forge one.

  • Hal: God is a gentleman. He prefers blondes.

  • Truscott: I'm no fool.
    Fay: Your secret is safe with me.

  • McLeavy: My duty is clear.
    Truscott: Only the authorities can decide when your duty is clear. Wild guesses by persons like yourself can only cause confusion.

  • McLeavy: Where did I go wrong? His upbringing was faultless. Did you lead him astray?
    Dennis: I was innocent till I met him.
    Hal: You met me when you were three days old.

  • Truscott: How dare you involve me in a situation for which no memo has been issued.

  • McLeavy: Has no one considered my feelings in all this?
    Truscott: What percentage do you want?
    McLeavy: I don't want money. I'm an honest man.
    Truscott: You'll have to mend your ways then.

  • Fay: Have you given a thought to the priest?
    Truscott: We can't have him in on it, miss. Our percentage wouldn't be worth having.
    Fay: Mr McLeavy threatened to expose us.
    Truscott: I've been exposed before.
    Fay: What happened?
    Truscott: I arrested the man. He's doing twelve years.

  • Truscott: You're fucking nicked, my old beauty. You've found to your cost that the standards of the British police force are as high as ever.
    McLeavy: What am I charged with?
    Truscott: That needn't concern you for the moment. We'll fill in the details later.
    McLeavy: You can't do this. I've always been a law-abiding citizen. The police are for the protection of ordinary people.
    Truscott: I don't know where you pick up these slogans, sir. You must read them on hoardings.

  • McLeavy: I'm innocent. (A little unsure of himself, the beginnings of panic) Doesn't that mean anything to you?

What the Butler Saw (1969)[edit]

Act I[edit]

  • Geraldine: I've no idea who my father was.
    Prentice: I'd better be frank, Miss Barclay. I can't employ you if you're in any way miraculous. It would be contrary to established practice. You did have a father?
    Geraldine: Oh, I'm sure I did. My mother was frugal in her habits, but she'd never economize unwisely.

  • Nick: I've also found someone to take an option on the photographs.
    Mrs Prentice: What photographs?
    Nick: I had a camera concealed in the room.
    Mrs Prentice: When I gave myself to you the contract didn't include cinematic rights.
    Nick: I'd like a hundred quid for the negatives. You've got until lunchtime.
    Mrs Prentice: I shall complain to the manager.
    Nick: It will do you no good. He took the photographs.
    Mrs. Prentice: Oh, this is scandalous! I'm a married woman.
    Nick: You didn't behave like a married woman last night.

  • Mrs Prentice: You put me in an impossible position.
    Nick: No position is impossible when you're young and healthy.

  • Mrs Prentice: My uterine contractions have been bogus for some time!
    Prentice: What a discovery! Married to the mistress of the fraudulent climax.

  • Mrs Prentice: Have you taken up transvestism? I'd no idea our marriage teetered on the edge of fashion.

  • Rance: You may speak freely in front of me. I represent Her Majesty's Government. Your immediate superiors in madness. I'm from the Commissioners.
    Prentice: Which branch?
    Rance: The mental branch.
    Prentice: Do you cover asylums proper? Or just houses of tentative madness?
    Rance: My brief is infinite. I'd have sway over a rabbit hutch if the inmates were mentally disturbed.

  • Geraldine: I'm quite sane!
    Rance: Pull yourself together. Why have you been certified if you're sane? Even for a madwoman you're unusually dense.

  • Rance: Were your relations with your secretary normal?
    Prentice: Yes.
    Rance: Well, Prentice, your private life is your own affair. I find it shocking none the less.

  • Prentice: It's a fascinating theory, sir, and cleverly put together. Does it tie in with known facts?
    Rance: That need not cause us undue anxiety. Civilizations have been founded and maintained on theories which refused to obey facts.

  • Rance: A search party must be organized. What have you in the way of dogs?
    Prentice: A spaniel and a miniature poodle.
    Rance: Let them be unleashed!

  • Rance: How shocking! His abnormal condition has driven him to seek refuge in religion. Always the last ditch stand of a man on the brink of disaster.

  • Mrs Prentice: Are you ashamed of the fact that you write to strange men?
    Prentice: There's nothing furtive in my relationship with the editor of The Guardian.

  • Nick: I'm sorry if my behaviour last night caused your wife anxiety, but I've a burning desire to sleep with every woman I meet.
    Prentice: That's a filthy habit and, in my opinion, very injurious to the health.
    Nick: It is, sir. My health's never been the same since I went off stamp-collecting.
    Prentice: We have an overall moral policy in this clinic from which even I am not exempt. Whilst you're with us I shall expect you to show an interest in no one's sexual organs but your own.
    Nick: I would miss a lot of fun that way.
    Prentice: That is the object of the exercise.

  • Geraldine: We must tell the truth!
    Prentice: That's a thoroughly defeatist attitude.

  • Geraldine: At least give me back my clothes. I feel naked without them.

  • Mrs. Prentice: Are you Geraldine Barclay?
    Nick: Yes.
    Mrs. Prentice: Where have you been?
    Nick: I've been attending to the thousand and one duties that occupy the average secretary during her working hours.
    Mrs Prentice: It doesn't take the whole morning to file your nails, surely?
    Nick: I had to lie down. I was sick.
    Mrs. Prentice: Are you pregnant?
    Nick: I can't discuss my employer's business with you.

  • Prentice: This appalling situation is the result of my lax moral code. It's clean living and Teach Yourself Woodwork for me from now on!

Act II[edit]

  • Prentice: What this young woman claims is a tissue of lies.
    Match: This is a boy, sir. Not a girl. If you're baffled by the difference it might be as well to approach both with caution.

  • Prentice: It's ridiculous. I'm a married man.
    Match: Marriage excuses no one the freaks' roll-call.

  • Prentice: My nerves are on edge.
    Rance: You should consult a qualified psychiatrist.
    Prentice: I am a qualified psychiatrist.
    Rance: You're a fool. That isn't quite the same thing. Though, in your case, the two may have much in common.

  • Prentice: Unnatural vice can ruin a man.
    Rance: Ruin follows the accusation not the vice.

  • Prentice: I'm not mad. It only looks that way.
    Rance: Your actions today would get the Archbishop of Canterbury declared non-compos.
    Prentice: I'm not the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    Rance: That will come at a later stage of your illness.

The Orton Diaries (1986)[edit]

Edited by John Lahr, Minerva, ISBN 0-7493-9005-0]
  • Usual messages from the heads of the establishment. The Queen from Windsor, the Pope from Rome: Pilate and Caiaphas celebrating the birth of Christ.
    • Sunday 25 December 1966 (p. 38)
  • On the bus going home I heard a most fascinating conversation between an old man and woman. "What a thing, though," the old woman said. "You'd hardly credit it." "She's always made a fuss of the whole family, but never me," the old man said. "Does she have a fire when the young people go to see her?" "Fire?" "She won't get people seeing her without warmth." "I know why she's doing it. Don't think I don't," the old man said. "My sister she said to me, 'I wish I had your easy life.' Now that upset me. I was upset by the way she phrased herself. 'Don't talk to me like that,' I said. 'I've only got to get on the phone and ring a certain number,' I said, 'to have you stopped.'" "Yes," the old woman said, "And you can, can't you?" "Were they always the same?" she said. "When you was a child? Can you throw yourself back? How was they years ago?" "The same," the old man said. "Wicked, isn't it?" the old woman said. "Take care, now" she said, as the old man left her. He didn't say a word but got off the bus looking disgruntled.
    • Wednesday 18 January 1967 (p. 66)
  • On our way home we were waiting for the bus when a very fat, pompous-looking woman reeled out of a pub shouting, "Melancholia? Ad nauseam."
    • Saturday 15 April 1967 (p. 137)

The Edna Welthorpe letters[edit]

  • Sir — In finding so much to praise in Entertaining Mr. Sloane, which seems to be nothing more than a highly sensationalized, lurid, crude and over-dramatised picture of life at its lowest, surely your dramatic critic has taken leave of his senses.

    The effect this nauseating work had on me was to make we want to fill my lungs with some fresh, wholesome Leicester Square air. A distinguished critic, if I quote him correctly, felt the sensation of snakes crawling around his ankles while watching it.

    Yours truly,

    Peter Pinnell

    • This letter was written by Orton under a pseudonym and was published by The Daily Telegraph (p. 283 of the Orton Diaries)

  • Sir — As a playgoer of forty years standing, may I say that I heartily agree with Peter Pinnell in his condemnation of Entertaining Mr Sloane.

    I myself was nauseated by this endless parade of mental and physical perversion. And to be told that such a disgusting piece of filth now passes for humour!

    Today's young playwrights take it upon themselves to flaunt their contempt for ordinary decent people. I hope that the ordinary decent people of this country will shortly strike back!

    Yours truly,

    Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)

    • See above (p. 283 of the Orton Diaries)

The Erpingham Camp

  • With insanity, as with vomit, it is the passerby who receives the inconvenience.

Quotes about Orton[edit]

  • The Oscar Wilde of Welfare State gentility.
    • Ronald Bryden, review of Loot in The Observer ( 2 October 1966)

External links[edit]

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