The Tragic Story Of Joe Orton, His Boyfriend And A Stack Of Stolen Library Books

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: via Islington Gazette

Against the odds, the provincial, working-class young man was successful, and started at the prestigious RADA in May 1951. Once there, he met fellow student Kenneth Halliwell, a man seven years his senior. Born in affluence in Merseyside and classically educated, Halliwell had inherited his well-heeled family’s wealth when his father committed suicide in 1949.

Image: via Facebook/Literary Leicester

Although they were from different worlds, Orton and Halliwell soon formed a strong bond. Although the older, more sophisticated man acted as a sort of mentor for Orton, there was also a romantic component. While living together in a shared house, the pair became gay lovers. It should be remembered that homosexual acts were still illegal in England, and would remain so until 1967.

ADVERTISEMENT

Image: Islington Local History Centre via Atlas Obscura

Initially separated after graduation from RADA to work separately in far-flung regional theaters, Orton and Halliwell soon gravitated back to London. Once again living together, the pair began collaborating on a series of novels. However, their work failed to attract the interest of publishers, and the pair resorted to living off welfare and Halliwell’s inheritance.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT