Interview with Joe Orton, from the programme for Crimes of Passion


The Royal Court’s programme for Crimes of Passion (June 1967) included this interview with Joe Orton, conducted by Barry Hanson.

With his characteristic humour, Orton describes his early life growing up in Leicester and his experiences as a young man at RADA (‘complete rubbish’; within two terms, ‘I completely lost my confidence and my virginity’). He addresses his prosecution and imprisonment for defacing library books in the early 1960s, and comments on the role of the police and British law:

I mean I’ve no objection to them tracking down murderers and bank robbers, clearly you can’t have people behaving in a completely anarchic way. I believe, though, that they interfere far too much with private morals – whether people are having it off in the backs of cars, or smoking marihuana [sic], or doing the interesting little things that one does.

The reference to ‘private morals’ – ‘doing the interesting little things that one does’ – can be interpreted as a veiled reference to the law that made homosexuality illegal. This law, together with wider public attitudes, forced gay men to lead hidden lives out of fear of arrest and imprisonment. In July 1967, a month after this interview with Orton was published, a breakthrough was reached in Britain. The Sexual Offences Act was passed, legalising sex in private between two consenting male adults (over the age of 21).

Orton continues the interview by talking about his writing style, use of language and flair for observation:

The style isn't super-imposed. It's me. … You’ve only got to be sitting on a bus and you’ll hear the most stylised lines. People think I write fantasy, but I don't; some things may be exaggerated or distorted in the way some painters distort and alter things, but they're realistic figures. They're perfectly recognisable.

Full title:
Peter Gill papers: 'Crimes of passion'
1967, London
Programme / Ephemera / Photograph / Image
Royal Court Theatre, Joe Orton, Barry Hanson, Peter Gill
Usage terms

Joe Orton: © Reproduced with permission of the Estate of John Kingsley Orton (deceased), professionally known as Joe Orton. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing the work.

Royal Court Theatre: © The English Stage Company Ltd. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 88898/1/92

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Edited extracts from Leonie Orton’s memoir, I Had It In Me

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

In these edited extracts from her memoir, Leonie Orton, sister of playwright Joe Orton, provides a vivid account of growing up in the Orton household in Leicester and her relationship with Joe.

Homosexuality, censorship and British drama during the 1950s and 1960s

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

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.

A close reading of Loot

Article by:
Emma Parker
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.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works


Created by: Joe Orton

Loot (1965) overview With his 1965 play Loot, Joe Orton ‘extended the boundaries of farce by taking it out of ...