2017 celebrates 5o years since the death of infamous Leicester-born playwright Joe Orton. In fact, 2017 is the year of Orton as Nottingham’s National Justice Museum will also be launching a Joe Orton exhibition this summer following a hugely successful Art Happens crowdfunding campaign (learn more about that here).
Park Circus is set to re-release Stephen Frears’ Joe Orton biopic Prick Up Your Ears in the UK and Ireland from 4 August. The film sees Gary Oldman star as the provocative playwright, who went from working class Leicester lad, to the toast of London’s swinging art scene in the 1960s.
The film is a bold portrait of Joe Orton who was openly gay at a time when homosexuality was still illegal. With Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Walters and Alfred Molina in supporting roles, Gary Oldman captures the true spirit and charm of this celebrated playwright and English eccentric – who tragically suffered a shocking and sudden death in 1967.
Co-written by Alan Bennett, Prick up Your Ears uncovers the 16-year relationship between the highly talented but selfish Joe Orton, author of hit farces such as Loot and What the Butler Saw, and his highly neurotic and underachieving lover Keith Halliwell. Halliwell introduces him to art, literature and sex only to see his protégé surpass him in all these pursuits.
Islington, London, 1967, a small flat – it’s five o’clock, it’s a quarter past five. An argument is brewing. Halliwell is anxiously waiting the return of Joe Orton who strolls in late, in an outlandish new coat. Joe is riding high: his new play Loot is a sell-out, he’s just sold the film rights and he’s getting offers everywhere. Halliwell is deeply unhappy, struggling to sell collages to friends and bitterly identifying as his lover’s ‘personal assistant’.
As Orton’s successes multiply, Halliwell’s misery intensifies and their relationship reaches boiling point when Orton is chosen to meet The Beatles and Halliwell is left at home. Seething with resentment and rage he decides to take drastic and devastating action.
Prick Up Your Ears screens as a centrepiece of the major BFI season Gross Indecency: Queer Lives Before and After the ’67 Act, which runs at BFI Southbank throughout July and August. The season explores the pioneering depictions of LGBT life in British film in the years immediately before and after the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act.