and Halliwell returned to London seized with the ambition
to become writers. Halliwell took the lead, dictating
while Orton typed. Later Orton began contributing ideas.
In order to save money they lived frugally on £5
a week. Rising early in the morning, they would write
all morning, read in the afternoon and go to bed at dusk
to save on electricity.
Their first manuscript, a science fiction spoof entitled
The Mechanical Womb, was rejected as being ‘Rather
good, really … but not good enough’,
as was their next effort The Last Days of Sodom. In 1957
The Boy Hairdresser, a satire in blank verse, was also
rejected as ‘entertaining ... but unpublishable’.
The works were of sufficient merit for publishers Charles
Monteith and Richard Brain to arrange a meeting. Monteith
thought Halliwell ‘was the one that did the writing’
and Orton as ‘the young, pretty boyfriend.’
On visiting the writers Monteith and Brain experienced
the writers’ austere circumstances first hand. The
flat was dilapidated and they were served ‘a spartan,
ghastly meal’ of sardines and rice followed by rice
and golden syrup. After this meeting however both publishers
came away realising that it was Orton, rather than Halliwell,
who provided the comic spark in their writing.
The publishers threw a party to introduce Halliwell and
Orton to leading London literary figures, which turned
out to be a disaster. The pair sat on a settee all night
and didn’t speak to anyone, Halliwell later explaining
in a letter to Monteith that ‘we are no good at
parties’. Enclosed was a revised version of The
Last Days of Sodom, this time rejected for not being as
good as the first.