Fred and Madge, written in 1959 when he was 26,
was Joe Orton's very first play. On the face of it, Fred
and Madge seem to be a stereotypical working class, middle-aged
couple, bored with each other and talking in clichés.
But it emerges that Fred's job is to push boulders uphill
and Madge spends her working days sieving water in a bath.
Here, Fred describes his pride in his pointless occupation
with another character, SPP (Small Part Player)
You seem to have a really worthwhile job here
Fred: We have our coats off, sir. Work is recognised as
SPP: You push this stone -
Fred: Up the hill, sir.
SPP: And what happens then?
Fred: It all depends. It should roll down again. But accidents
will happen. Sometimes it topples over the other side.
When the action of the play is interrupted by Webber,
a director-like figure and Fred takes on the role of stage
hand, Fred and Madge seem to be inhabiting a play about
themselves. The story enters the fantastic in Acts 2 and
3, with England being taken over by a primeval forest
and the cast literally destroying architecture by laughing
The Visitors was written in 1961, and
was the last play Orton wrote before his breakthrough.
The Visitors was rejected by both the BBC and the Royal
Court. Whilst admiring the dialogue, they felt the plot
was unstructured. Set in a hospital where Kemp is visited
by his middle-aged daughter, Mrs Platt, the nursing staff
are more intent on betting and gossip than patient care
and Mrs Platt speaks to her dying father in petty clichés.
Kemp: I shall be here till they carry me out.
Mrs Platt: We'll have you skipping about in no time.
Kemp: I won't bother you much longer.
Mrs Platt: I won't have that kind of talk, do you hear?
You've got years ahead of you. What do you want to die
Kemp: I don't want to.
Mrs Platt: Well?
Kemp: But I'm going to.
The Visitors introduces the father and daughter characters
later reworked and developed into Kemp and Kath in Entertaining