Joe Orton on the BBC

Posted by pt91 at Nov 23, 2017 02:33 PM |
BBC 2 Documentary made with support from University of Leicester

Issued by University of Leicester on 23 November 2017

Download an image from the ‘Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)’ animation at:

You can access the animation on the BBC Arts website:

Material from the University of Leicester has played a key role in the making of a new documentary on the celebrated Leicester playwright Joe Orton.

Joe Orton Laid Bare, showing at 9pm on BBC 2 on Saturday 25 November, draws on archival material from the University of Leicester’s Special Collections.

The Joe Orton Collection held in the University Library includes manuscripts, letters and other original material written, compiled or collected by the Leicester-born John Kingsley (Joe) Orton (1933-1967), plus correspondence and memorabilia received and collected by members of the Orton family. It includes scripts and drafts of plays (published and unpublished), correspondence (mostly with his agent, Peggy Ramsay), a diary of his stay in Tangier, scrapbooks and press cuttings, programmes, photographs and personal memorabilia of both Orton and his lover, Kenneth Halliwell. Also included is the screenplay of Alan Bennett's Prick Up Your Ears, based on the biography of Joe Orton, written by John Lahr.

The collection was purchased from the Orton Estate in 1997.

Special Collections Manager Dr Simon Dixon said: “We are very proud to care for the Joe Orton Collection, and have recently made significant investment in cataloguing and preserving the archive for use by future generations of researchers. It is available for access by students, staff and members of the general public, and we were pleased to be able to welcome Director, Richard Curzon-Smith, and his team during the making of the new film.”

To coincide with the new documentary, BBC Arts will make an Orton-inspired animation by BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Chris Shepherd available on its website for three months from today (Thursday). The animation, ‘Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)’ was funded by the University of Leicester and Arts Council England. Renowned Orton academic Dr Emma Parker, from the University of Leicester School of Arts, was an Executive Producer of the animation.

The animation, which stars Alison Steadman, was inspired by prank letters of complaint that Orton penned using the pseudonym Mrs Edna Welthorpe and produced alongside new Edna Welthorpe letters that Chris and Emma commissioned from top comedy writers and actors, and a national creative writing competition that they ran for post-16 students. Joe Orton’s original Edna Welthorpe letters are also housed in the University’s Orton Collection.

The animation was shown on August 9 at the Little Theatre in Leicester to mark 50 years since the death of  the playwright and provocateur Joe Orton. Hollywood icon and 2017 Emmy Award winner Alec Baldwin played a key role in the Leicester event celebrating the legacy of the playwright. Alec recorded a special message for the Leicester audience and wrote a letter in the style of Orton’s Edna Welthorpe.

This is the first time the film will be available to the public for free.

Dr Parker said: “It’s been wonderful to work with Chris Shepherd on this animation inspired by Joe Orton’s Edna Welthorpe letters. The film offers a fun new perspective on Orton’s hilarious satire on snobbery and social conservatism. And now everyone can see the film via BBC Arts.”

All the letters, plus information about Joe Orton and Edna Welthorpe, are available here:

You can access the animation on the BBC Arts website, where it is currently featured on their homepage:

Joe Orton 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.

  • British street artist Stewy created a stencil of the Leicester writer while working both at the Little Theatre and the University of Leicester.  This was unveiled in the Library. Dr Parker’s interview with STEWY can be found here, featuring comment from Leicester academics and Nikolai Foster at Curve:


Joe Orton Laid Bare celebrates the wit, work and world of groundbreaking sixties playwright Joe Orton in his own words and those of friends and colleagues. 50 years since his murder at the hands of his lover Kenneth Halliwell, the film charts Joe's brief meteoric rise and tragic demise, and celebrates his unique comic voice as well as his significant role in the culture of 60s swinging London.

Antony Sher, Freddie Fox and Jaime Winstone lead an all-star ensemble cast, bringing to life excerpts of Orton's hilarious work for the TV generation, while Bryan Dick plays Orton himself, walking the viewer through the streets Joe inhabited and using his diary to revive the voice of one of Britain's most controversial comic writers.

The film builds to a tense and surprising conclusion as the circumstances of Joe's death are re-examined and new evidence reveals a sinister and powerful figure at the centre of events that led to his murder. Interviewees include Kenneth Cranham, Sir Michael Codron, Christopher Hampton, Patricia Routledge, Orton biographer John Lahr and Joe's sister Leonie.

Joe Orton Collection:



Notes to editors:

For interviews:

Dr Emma Parker

Associate Professor in Postwar and Contemporary Literature


Simon Dixon

Special Collections Manager


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