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.
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.
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.