Extract from Entertaining Mr Sloane showing Orton's edits



Orton had completed his first major script, Entertaining Mr Sloane, and acquired an agent, Peggy Ramsey, a formidable and well respected figure in the theatre.

Ramsey saw promise in the play but also its flaws. At their first meeting she was hard on him but he took the criticism well and promised to write a better play for her next time. Referring to Sloane as ‘our play’ he asked if ‘his friend’ could come to the next meeting. Halliwell attended almost all meetings with Ramsey from then on. It was also Ramsey’s suggestion that
Orton change his name from John to Joe, ‘John Orton’ sounded too much like ‘John Osborne’, a leading playwright at the time.

The Sloane script was picked up almost immediately much to Ramsey’s surprise. At this time all theatre scripts had to be approved by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for standards of decency. To Orton’s great amusement when the play was returned all the heterosexual references had been cut and all the homosexual ones left in.

The play caused quite a stir when it opened and there were mixed responses. The Daily Telegraph commented ‘Not for such a long time have I disliked a play so much as I disliked Joe Orton’s …’

The playwright Terence Rattigan wrote to Orton ‘I don’t think you’ve written a masterpiece ... but I do think you’ve written the most exciting and stimulating first play that I’ve seen in 30 odd years of play going.’

Rattigan not only praised Orton’s work he also put up £3,000 to move Sloane to the Wyndham Theatre in the West End. This time the Telegraph review was slightly more supportive, ‘while shameless and repulsive ...
I sat through it last night a second time ... and was held throughout. ‘

That year Sloane was voted joint winner for Best New British Pay in Variety’s London Critics Poll. Orton’s transformation was now complete. He was a successful, award winning playwright, with plaudits from his peers and a play in the West End.

John had become Joe.

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  

Copyright Notice: Reproduction of material on Joe Orton Online is not permitted without prior approval from the owner of the
relevant intellectual property rights. For full terms of use click here
Joe Orton Online was created and developed by Alison Forsythe.
Web Design © Alison Forsythe.