Drawing of Joe Orton by Patrick Procktor

Description

This iconic pen drawing of playwright Joe Orton was created by the British artist Patrick Procktor in 1967. Orton posed nude, but kept his socks on – playfully writing in his diary, ‘I kept my socks on because I think they're sexy’.[1]

Looking directly at the viewer, his body reclining on a bed, Orton exhibits relaxed confidence and homoeroticism in equal measure. It’s an unconventional portrait for a celebrated writer – but then Orton, who was gay and from a working-class background, was an unconventional playwright in the 1960s. What’s more, he was unapologetic about his identity.

More widely, this portrait ties into Orton’s self-fashioning as the frontrunner for a ‘new movement’ of writers who would display a level of physical and emotional strength to match their intelligence, countering the ‘complete myth about writers being sensitive plants’. ‘I mean, there’s absolutely no reason why a writer shouldn’t be as tough as a bricklayer’ (quoted from the Evening Standard, 3 October 1966). This same attitude is embodied in the portrait photographs taken by Lewis Morley as publicity for the American production of Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Where is this copy of the portrait from?

Procktor’s drawing was commissioned for the Royal Court Theatre’s production of Crimes of Passion, in which it was given away as a loose insert in the programme (undoubtedly surprising some members of the audience). The June 1967 production staged a double bill of Orton’s one-act plays, The Ruffian on the Stair and The Erpingham Camp. It was directed by Peter Gill, who owned this copy of the programme and has annotated it with a blue biro pen.

[1] Quote from Joe Orton’s diary.

Full title:
Peter Gill papers: 'Crimes of passion'
Published:
1967, London
Created:
1967
Format:
Artwork / Print / Image
Creator:
Patrick Procktor
Usage terms

© Estate of Patrick Procktor. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Add MS 88898/1/92

Full catalogue details

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A close reading of Loot

Article by:
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Themes:
Gender and sexuality, 20th-century theatre, Exploring identity

Joe Orton was a working-class, gay playwright whose outrageous black comedies scandalised theatre audiences in the 1960s. Emma Parker examines Orton’s satire on social and sexual convention by showing how the opening of Loot establishes the play’s central themes and dramatic techniques.

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By the end of the 1950s, playwrights had gained new freedoms to represent homosexual characters and themes on the British stage. Greg Buzwell charts the impact of the Wolfenden Report and Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey on the Lord Chamberlain’s strict censorship policy.

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