Joe Orton’s Loot: 50 Years On

Posted by pt91 at Aug 26, 2016 11:48 AM |
Joe Orton's celebrated and controversial play Loot explored by his friends, family and fans 50 years after its London premiere

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 26 August 2016

  • Three events featuring people connected to the Leicester playwright share their memories of the man and his work
  • A new exhibit celebrating Orton's first stage play will be unveiled by actor Kenneth Cranham at the University of Leicester on 24 September at 3pm
  • Olivier Award-winning actor Kenneth Cranham will discuss his role in Loot as he looks back on 50 years on stage and screen in ‘An Evening with Kenneth Cranham,’ Curve Theatre, 24 September
  • Members of the 1966 production of Loot, director Braham Murray and actor Michael Elwyn, will join novelist Jake Arnott and the playwright’s sister, Leonie Orton, at ‘Joe Orton’s Loot: A 50th Anniversary Celebration,’ New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, 25 September

PHOTO OPPS:  Saturday 24 September at 3pm at the University Library and 5pm at Curve theatre; Sunday 25 September at 11 am at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery

Download a photograph of Professor Emma Parker:

A two-day celebration of Joe Orton's Loot marks 50 years since the London premiere of his ‘comedy of horrors’.

The University of Leicester –which houses the Orton Archive - is holding three events at the end of September to mark the anniversary of the Leicester writer's anarchic black comedy. Originally called Funeral Games, the play features some of theatre’s most unusual props: a coffin, a glass eye and a set of dentures.

Organiser, and Reader in Post-War and Contemporary Literature at the University, Dr Emma Parker, said: “Orton’s farce is funny and irreverent, though this doesn't always make him popular.

“Orton’s satire on social decorum provoked outrage and controversy. It prompted the Times headline: ‘Bournemouth old ladies shocked’.

“As a working-class gay man, writing in a period when homosexuality was illegal, Orton was an outsider; his plays mock snobbery and attack the institutions that demonise same-sex desire - the family, the church, the law.

“He ridicules bourgeois values and conventions, social aspiration and sexual hypocrisy.”

The first of the three events takes place on Saturday 24 September in the David Wilson Library, where actor Kenneth Cranham will unveil a new interactive exhibit curated by Natasha Barrett and Ceciel Browuer of the School of Museum Studies. The centre piece of the exhibit is a special clay pot made by ceramicist Rachel Barnett, Orton's niece, to commemorate her uncle’s work.

That evening, Kenneth Cranham will also appear at Curve theatre, in Rutland Street, to share memories of his unique relationship with Orton and look back on roles in cult TV shows such as Shine on Harvey Moon and Rome, films including Hellraiser II, and - most recently - Florian Zeller’s play The Father, winner of three Moliere Awards.

Finally, on Sunday 25 September, at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, a series of talks by Orton's friends, fans and family will offer new insights into Loot.

Talks will be accompanied by a small exhibition of material from the University of Leicester’s Joe Orton Archive, including scripts and personal letters.

Among the contributors is Braham Murray, formerly Artistic Director at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, who will discuss working with Orton on revisions of Loot after it flopped in 1965.

Orton wrote to a friend: “I am exhausted. 18 months struggling to vindicate the honour of my play (my own is beyond vindication) has left me weak at the knees.”

Nonetheless, the 1966 version of Loot went on to win the prestigious Evening Standard Award and confirmed Orton’s reputation as a major writer.

Dr Parker said: “Finally, after much hard work and heartache, the play was a triumph. It has become Orton’s most performed play and is now an A Level set text.

“50 years after the play’s London premiere, it remains very relevant, said Dr Parker.

Loot is about police brutality and corruption,” she said. “These issues remain unresolved today.

“Orton’s play also concerns religious hypocrisy. Today the church is beleaguered by controversies about child sex abuse and is deeply divided on homosexuality.”

Orton is regarded as one of the most original and important playwrights of the post-war period. He is also a gay icon.

Dr Parker said: “The events aim to celebrate Orton's huge impact on theatre and gay politics and culture.

“He is a significant influence on contemporary playwrights such as Martin McDonagh, Jez Butterworth and Joe Penhall, and on novelists like Jake Arnott and Jonathan Coe.

“His legacy can be seen in contemporary satirical TV shows such as Father Ted and The League of Gentlemen.

“Orton has even influenced musicians such as Morrissey, The Pet Shop Boys and Todd Rundgren, who produced a whole album inspired by the film script Orton was commissioned to write for The Beatles, Up Against It.

The two day event also honours Leicester's cultural heritage. “Orton is one of the city's most successful sons,” said Dr Parker, “and another famous man from Leicester, Richard Attenborough, starred in a 1970 film version of the play.”

Dr Parker concludes, “Orton’s achievement was huge; it deserves to recognised and celebrated.”

For further information on ‘Joe Orton’s Loot: 50 Years On’, see

For information about events to mark the 50th anniversary of Orton’s death in 2017, see:

Updates can be found on Twitter: @JoeOrtonWriter


Notes to editors:

For additional information or to interview Dr Emma Parker email:

Dr Emma Parker specialises in post-war British literature and contemporary fiction, and is interested in issues relating to gender and sexuality. She produced a 50th anniversary edition of Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane (2014).

The Literary Archive of Joe Orton is housed at the University of Leicester. More information here:

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