Special comedy event and animated film in honour of playwright and provocateur Joe Orton

Posted by pt91 at Jun 01, 2017 10:56 AM |
University of Leicester academic collaborates with BAFTA-nominated filmmaker to launch new creative writing competition
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 1 June 2017
  • Special Orton event at Little Theatre on 9 August supported by University of Leicester

  • Creative writing Competition announced to ‘write a new Edna Welthorpe letter’

‘Our Creative Writing Competition offers students an opportunity to learn how to channel anger into humour and use satire as an alternative to hate speech.’ -Dr Emma Parker, University of Leicester

Photos of Joe Orton, Emma Parker & Chris Shepherd and a flyer for ‘Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)’ at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/tl7p7swuf8v5kco/AABGlh8wNOLcH3ciwUHoZ3Ula?dl=0

Listen to Joe Orton’s sister Leonie Orton Barnett reading some of the ‘Edna Welthorpe’ letters: https://soundcloud.com/university-of-leicester/edna-welthorpe-and-other

To mark 50 years since the death of Joe Orton, BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Chris Shepherd is collaborating with University of Leicester academic, Dr Emma Parker, on an Arts Council-funded project inspired by prank letters of complaint that Orton penned using the pseudonym Mrs Edna Welthorpe.

Joe Orton (1933-1967) was a leading postwar playwright. His black comedies Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964), Loot (1966) and What the Butler Saw (1969) made him central to the Swinging Sixties. He appeared on the Eamonn Andrews Show, was photographed with model Twiggy and invited to write a screenplay for The Beatles.

As well as writing plays that helped shaped the new counterculture, Orton wrote prank letters of complaint satirizing snobbery and conservatism under the pen name Mrs Edna Welthorpe.

On Wednesday 9 August 2017, 7pm, at the Little Theatre in Dover Street, Leicester, acclaimed actor Frances Barber will read the hilarious prank letters of complaint that Orton penned under the pseudonym Edna Welthorpe alongside new Edna letters commissioned from top comedy writers such as Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, The Thick of It), Arthur Mathews (Father Ted) and Caroline Moran (Raised by Wolves).

Chris Shepherd pays tribute to Orton through a new Edna-inspired animation starring Alison Steadman. Leonie Orton shares memories of  her brother’s comic escapades, and comedian Graham Fellows (John Shuttleworth) joins Emmy Award-winning writer David Quantick (The Fast Show, Brass Eye, Veep) to discuss Orton’s impact on contemporary comedy.

The special event is introduced by Dr Emma Parker of the University of Leicester.

Parker and Shepherd are also launching a creative writing competition that invites post-16 students to embody Orton’s mischievous spirit and write a new Edna Welthorpe letter. The competition offers students an opportunity to learn how to channel anger into humour and use satire as an alternative to hate speech. The winning letter will be read at the event on 9 August.

Chris Shepherd said: “It’s such an honour to be celebrating the life of Joe Orton - one of the greatest British playwrights and my comedy hero. I read his plays as a teenager his naughtiness got me giggling and I’ve been laughing ever since.”

Leading Joe Orton expert, Emma Parker, of the University of Leicester School of Arts, said: “The 50th anniversary of Orton’s death offers the perfect moment to celebrate his comic genius. We want to inspire young people to embrace Orton’s anarchic spirit and to recognise his impact on contemporary culture.”

Tickets for ‘Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)’ available from The Little Theatre from 1 June 2017: http://www.thelittletheatre.net/

Creative writing competition webpage: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/EdnaWelthorpe

Joe Orton Collection: http://www2.le.ac.uk/library/find/specialcollections/specialcollections/joe-orton-collection



Chris Shepherd is a BAFTA nominated multi award winning director, writer producer and curator. From his early days as animation director Chris worked on comedy series such as Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan’s Big Train and Chris Morris’s Nathan Barley. Chris has written and directed many internationally acclaimed shorts for broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel 4, Arte and Canal+ and won over 50 international film awards. His latest film Johnno’s Dead won Best British Short at the London International Animation Festival in 2016. He is also an animation lecturer at Middlesex University.

Emma Parker is Associate Professor in English at the University of Leicester, which houses the Joe Orton archive. She has published widely on twentieth century and contemporary literature, including a 50th anniversary of edition of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane (Methuen Drama, 2014), and the essays ‘A Queer Ear: Joe Orton and Music’ (Saatchi Gallery magazine, Art & Music, Spring 2017) and ‘Joe Orton and Shakespeare: Collage, Class and Queerness’ (Studies in Theatre and Performance, Summer 2017).

Chris Shepherd and Emma Parker will also be joined by Robin Ince (of the BBC’s ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’) to discuss Joe Orton and Edna Welthorpe at Latitude Festival, Southwold, on 16 July 2017.

About Arts Council England

The Arts Council champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk


For further enquiries or interview opportunities please contact Chris Shepherd (chris@chrisshepherdfilms.com) or Emma Parker (ep27@le.ac.uk)

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