Copy of the plaque erected at 25 Noel Rd Islington,
used in the film of 'Prick Up Your Ears'



Orton’s life was recorded in a detailed biography, Prick Up Your Ears, by John Lahr. The title was taken from what was to be Orton’s next play, a historical farce set on the eve of Edward VII’s coronation in 1902.

Published in 1978, Lahr’s book was meticulously researched over many years. Ramsay even granted access to Orton’s diaries, the existence of which she had kept secret for many years. While Lahr’s book is detailed and thorough, it came in for criticism from Ramsay and Orton family members for focusing more on Orton’s sexual adventures and for sidelining Halliwell, painting him as a minor figure who contributed little to Orton’s work. The author Simon Shepherd further claimed the book presented an anti-gay attitude that painted Halliwell as an irritant and a failure, and that their relationship and life was ultimately doomed.

Lahr subsequently edited Orton’s diaries for publication. These remain the best account of Orton’s life but again must be read with a note of caution. Ramsay, who had possession of the diaries, did not give Lahr access to the originals, rather she passed on typed copies. It is not inconceivable that Ramsay carried out some editing of her own, her protection of her clients was well known.

In 1987 a film, Prick Up Your Ears, based on Orton's diaries and on Lahr's biography, was released. Written by Alan Bennett and directed by Stephen Frears, the film starred Gary Oldman as Orton, Alfred Molina as Halliwell and Vanessa Redgrave as Ramsay.

Image: Courtesy of Birdhouse Design Ltd/The Orton Estate   Text © Leicester City Councill  

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