“We are meant to understand, sir, that with madness, as with vomit, it’s the passer- by who receives the inconvenience”.

The original version of The Erpingham Camp was produced by Rediffusion TV in 1966. It made its first stage performance at the Royal Court Theatre in 1967 as part of a double bill entitled Crimes of Passion.

The Erpingham Camp is based on Euripides Greek tragedy, The Bacchae. Orton set his version in a British holiday camp run by Erpingham, a man who sees himself as a leader ruling over an empire;

Erpingham: This is my kingdom. I make the laws.

As with Pentheus in The Bacchae, the prudish Erpingham has no time for rowdy behaviour and suspects sexual debauchery to be taking place at all times. Ultimately, as with Pentheus, Erpingham is struck down in a riot fuelled not by religious frenzy but by righteous indignation.

The Erpingham Camp allowed Orton to target the hypocrisy of people in power who obsessively repress self-expression in its many forms. The church was also targeted for its moribund approach;

Padre: Its life that defeats the Christian Church, she’s always been well equipped to deal with death.

“Erpingham is the best stage play of mine performed so far. If only Arthur Lowe were playing Erpingham they’d all be raving…” Joe Orton

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