by Lewis Morley
Playwright and actor; a pioneer of black farce, Joe Orton's plays include Entertaining Mr Sloane (1963) and Loot (1964-5, filmed 1970) and What the Butler Saw (1967); his other great works generally characterised by a stylish and macabre outrageousness; also wrote novels, three brief years of international fame were bought to a sudden end when he was murdered by his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, who subsequently committed suicide. Orton's plays The Ruffian on the Stair and The Erpingham Camp were first shown at the Royal Court in 1967, a few weeks before he was murdered, as a double bill under the title Crimes of Passion.
Having photographed the first production of Entertaining Mr Sloane a year earlier, in 1965 Morley was commissioned to photograph Joe Orton to publicise the US opening of the play. He was told that Orton wished to be photographed like a body- builder and so was startled when confronted by his slim frame. Realising that photographs of the playwright in his underwear would be deemed extremely risque’, Morley nonetheless agreed to photograph Orton as he wished.
The contact sheets above are made from Lewis Morley’s original negatives from the photographic session.
Help us conserve a portrait of a female adventurer, poet and medical pioneer