to be at King’s Cross station at eleven. I’m
meeting a man in the toilet”.
Written in 1963, The Ruffian on the Stair was first broadcast
by the BBC in 1964. It made its first stage performance
in a production without décor at the Royal Court
Theatre in 1966. A re-written version appeared at the
same venue in 1967 as part of a double bill entitled Crimes
The play centres around three characters, Wilson, Mike
and Joyce. Wilson forces himself into the home of Mike,
a petty crook and Joyce, a former prostitute. Mike has
run down Wilson’s brother in his van and while Mike
is out, Wilson terrifies Joyce who is alone at home.
Wilson: Do you know that I could murder you. Easy as that.
The play reaches its climax when Wilson, grief stricken
and out for revenge, goads Mike into killing him by claiming
to be having sex with Joyce.
The BBC paid Orton £65 for the 45 minute radio play,
a re-write of The Boy Hairdresser, a novel written with
Kenneth Halliwell between 1959 –60. The play provides
a taster of what was to be three staple ingredients of
Orton’s future work - murder, homosexuality and
incest. The 1966 Royal Court re-write differs substantially
from the 1963 BBC version.
“I forbid the Royal Court to use the
version of The Ruffian on the Stair printed in the BBC
book of radio plays. I absolutely wont have that version
performed anywhere!!” Joe Orton