Extract from The Ruffian on the Stair



After nearly 10 years of literary failure, Orton scored his first success. In August 1963 his 45 minute play, The Boy Hairdresser, was accepted by the BBC Third Programme.

The play had been taken up by producer, John Tydeman, who rescued it from BBC script readers, or ‘old biddies’ as he phrased it. Orton originally conceived it for the theatre and BBC producers thought it a bit meandering and needed more careful plotting.

After three rewrites, Orton submitted the final version of the script on December 6th and on December 23rd a revised title, The Ruffian on the Stair. It was between his initial submission and the final rewrite that Orton moved from novelist to playwright. The Ruffian on the Stair was finally broadcast on 31st August 1964.

Ruffian on the Stair was presented again in 1967 as Crimes of Passion, a double bill of Orton plays, also featuring The Erpingham Camp. This was again a much edited and revised version from the radio play.

This was illustrative of Orton’s approach to writing. The Boy Hairdresser script submitted to the BBC was a substantial rewrite of an earlier work, in this case his and Halliwell’s novel of the same title. Orton would continually rework scripts and old ideas and would polish scripts again and again until he had something he was happy with.

Image: Courtesy The Orton Estate/Joe Orton Collection at the Library of the University of Leicester   Text © Leicester City Council / Orton Quotes: © The Orton Estate  

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