Entertaining Mr Sloane

Written by Joe Orton

Thurs 7th October - Sat 9th October - Tues 12th October - Sat 16th October 1982

Directed by David Urqhuart

It may be Swinging 60s London but out in the suburbs, behind closed doors, Kath is lonely. Craving love and affection, Kath and her bachelor brother take a lodger. Soon both become infatuated with the shady young tenant with a murky past - Mr Sloane. Be prepared for murder, blackmail and dark secrets.

AuthorJoe Orton

Joe Orton (1933 - 1967)

Joe Orton was born in Leicester and his childhood was not a particularly happy one. Although not especially poverty stricken, his childhood could nevertheless be described as drab, uninspiring and violent. A clever child, young Joe passed the 11+ exam to go to grammar school but persistent ill health meant that his schooling was sporadic and he failed his exams. Orton set his sights on attending RADA after enjoying his experience on-stage in amateur dramatics. At the age of 18, he joined the Academy where he met Kenneth Halliwell, the man who was to become his friend, his collaborator, his lover and tragically, his murderer.

Orton and Halliwell wrote a number of unsuccessful works together but achieved bizarre notoriety in 1962 when they were convicted and imprisoned for the seemingly innocuous crime of defacing library books. The court passed down a harsh, 6-month sentence for what was ostensibly a prank. However, in an age where homosexuality was still illegal, the fact that the prank included pasting semi-erotic pictures on to covers of what they considered to be 'very dull' books probably influenced the judiciary. Orton later commented that they had been persecuted harshly because they had been discovered to be gay men openly living together.

While for Halliwell, prison was a soul-destroying experience, for Orton, it seemed to be the making of the playwright in him. In his own words, "I tried writing before I went into the nick...but it was no good. Being in the nick brought detachment to my writing...suddenly it worked." After a number of unsuccessful minor works, Entertaining Mr Sloane was Orton's first major script but the play received mixed response when it opened in 1963. In later venues however, it was voted Best New British Play by Variety's London Critics, moved to Broadway and Orton had his first taste of major success.

In 1966, Orton began again to write a diary (something he had started earlier in life). These later chapters, whilst being a frank and open account of his life, are also well-crafted literary works. They record, among other things the difficulties he experienced in his relationship with Halliwell, but give no clue that the nature of his death at the age of 34, could have been foreseen. The facts of the matter are that in August 1967, Halliwell killed him by repeatedly hitting him about the head with a hammer. Halliwell then took his own life with an overdose and 2 lives and a promising career were brought to an untimely end. Joe Orton's published work consists of three stage plays, four short radio/TV plays, a screenplay and a novel.

PlayEntertaining Mr Sloane

The story centres around Sloane, a handsome but shady young man who enters the household of siblings Ed and Kath. Middle-aged Kath is instantly attracted to Sloane, as is Ed and a fight for Sloane's affection ensues. However, as Sloane's murky past and psychopathic nature are revealed, the balance of power starts to shift. Joe Orton's, first play, 'Entertaining Mr Sloane' and its themes of oedipal conflict, bisexuality and violence caused outrage when it premiered in London's West End in 1964.

Bizarrely, Orton himself added his own voice to that of the dissenters in pseudonym form, regularly complaining about his own plays to The Daily Telegraph as a Mrs Edna Welthorpe. An example of such corespondence following a performance of this play, is as follows: "As a playgoer of forty years may I sincerely agree with Peter Parnell in his condemnation of Entertaining Mr Sloane. I myself was nauseated by this endless parade of mental and physical perversion. And to be told that such a disgusting piece of filth now passes for humour. Today's young playwrights take it upon themselves to flaunt their contempt for ordinary decent people. I hope that the ordinary decent people will strike back!". It was just this sort of mischief which Orton revelled in, and of course which helped him to generate controversy (and column inches).

The Bench Production

Entertaining Mr Sloane poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


KathJanet Simpson
SloaneDavid Dipnall
EdPeter Corrigan
KempFrank Lyons


Director David Urqhuart
Stage Manager Jo German
Lighting Peter Holding
Costumes Jane Hart
Set Peter Holding
David Crab
Publicity Lezley Picton

Production Photographs