Rare Joe Orton manuscript inspires new BBC Radio 3 drama

Posted by ap507 at Oct 07, 2016 10:15 AM |
Previously unpublished story contained within University of Leicester Joe Orton Archive to be featured in ‘The Visa Affair’ on Sunday 9 October

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 7 October

Images of the draft text of the manuscript and Joe Orton’s handwritten alterations available here (Image courtesy: Orton Estate / University of Leicester): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/noug0ypw0p5bsv1/AABId_KYWzSJ1_i6W0YE-2DIa?dl=0

A rare and previously unpublished manuscript by playwright Joe Orton located within the University of Leicester Joe Orton Archive has inspired an upcoming BBC Radio 3 drama.

The drama, ‘The Visa Affair’, which airs on Sunday 9 October will draw upon the manuscript, which outlines how in 1965 Joe Orton visited the American Embassy in London to get a visa to attend the New York Broadway rehearsals and opening of his West End hit, Entertaining Mr Sloane, and the difficulties he faced in doing so – including being interrogated.

The Joe Orton Archive also contains two other corrected versions of the manuscript as well as correspondence concerning Orton’s problems with securing the visa.

Dr Emma Parker from the University of Leicester School of Arts explained the context of ‘The Visa Affair’ in her introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Entertaining My Sloane, published by Bloomsbury in 2014.

Dr Parker said: “When his first stage play, Entertaining Mr Sloane, transferred to Broadway in 1965, Joe Orton applied for a US visa so that he could oversee the New York production of his satire on social and sexual repression.

“Because he had previously been sent to prison for 6 months for defacing library books, Orton's application was rejected twice on the grounds of 'moral turpitude'.

“On appeal, he was required to undergo medical assessment to satisfy the authorities that he did not have a 'psychopathic personality'. He finally secured a temporary waiver of ineligibility by denying his homosexuality and through the endorsement of playwright Terrence Rattigan and his agent Peggy Ramsay.

“Imprisoned by the very standards his play disdains, Orton's anger at this humiliating treatment fed his subsequent attack on state authority and the medical establishment in his next two plays, Loot and What the Butler Saw.”

In the BBC Radio 3 broadcast of ‘The Visa Affair’, which is written by Jake Arnott, Orton has just found success in the UK after years of obscurity, and Broadway beckons, but events in his past threaten his American dream.

As embassy staff challenge him about his criminal record, listeners follow a labyrinthine struggle as Joe is forced to defer to authority, deny his sexuality, and to look again at his subversive acts and how they affected his writing and work.

Throughout, Orton plays a game of hide and seek with bureaucracy – evading its surveillance whilst revealing its absurdity. Orton’s own narrative voice forms the heart of this drama.

‘The Visa Affair’ will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 9 October between 9:00PM – 10:15PM


Notes to editors:

For more information about the Joe Orton Archive at the University of Leicester contact Dr Emma Parker on ep27@leicester.ac.uk.

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