Joe Orton by Maurice Charney (auth.)

By Maurice Charney (auth.)

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Rows over a snake .... She was looking forward to a rabbit or a guinea-pig. Something for baby to play with . . Then he tells her he's put a deposit on a five-feet-long python .... She was horrified .... ' (pp. 348-9). Or your play? Except for its phallic implications, this story is genuinely puzzling. 1t is told right in the midst of a macabre tea ceremony to which it has no relation except as idle chit-chat. The humour of Scene 6 is more typically jokey, especially in its use of deflating non-sequiturs, as in the following: Questions are being asked about your murder.

Orton's last play, What the Butler Saw, begun in late 1966 and finished by 10 July 1967, was presented posthumously at the Queen's Theatre on 5 March 1969. This was followed by a much better production directed by Lindsay Anderson at the Royal Court Theatre (and later at the Whitehall) on 16 July 1975. What the Butler Saw is undoubtedly Orton's comic masterpiece. Although it may have lacked one final revision and could not benefit, as did Loot, from the author's prolific rewrites, there is no basis at all for thinking, as John Russell Taylor does, that it is in 'an extremely provisional form' (p.

64) I quote so extensively because Head to Toe is extremely difficult to obtain. With its elementary wordplay, this passage is both exhibitionistic and parodistic, but hardly Joycean in any real sense. Doktor von Pregnant, of course, is a ridiculously ineffectual figure, one of Gombold's 31 Joe Orton 'waking visions' (p. 65), who is fortuitously shot in his prison escape by pursuers going the other way. Orton delights in the onomastics of Head to Toe. There are grand lists of proper names like those he kept in his notebooks.

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