Islington playwright Joe Orton’s sister pens memoir

Leonie Orton

Leonie Orton - Credit: Archant

Islington legend Joe Orton had a younger sister, Leonie. As she releases a memoir dealing with their relationship she opens up to Nick Tyrrell

Leonie Orton

Leonie Orton - Credit: Archant

A personal take on Islington playwright Joe Orton’s life and work is now available as his sister launches her personal memoirs.

Leonie Orton details her relationship with her older brother, as well as considering the source of his immense literary talent.

Leonie told the Gazette about her early memories of her brother throughout her early childhood, focusing on his complete devotion to the theatre.

She said: “He was really wrapped up in amateur dramatics for most of my childhood. He was applying for everything.”

Joe Orton, playwright,murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell at their Islington home in 1967.

Joe Orton, playwright,murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell at their Islington home in 1967. - Credit: Archant

With Joe later going to RADA and meeting his lover Kenneth Halliwell, Leonie saw less of her brother as she got older.

But she kept in touch and visited him in Islington to see his plays performed on stage.

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Considering the critical success of his work, she acknowledges the impact of Halliwell, but insists the wicked sense of humour present throughout his work came principally from their mother.

“My mother was profoundly bad but irresistibly funny,” she said.

Asked about her brother’s murder at the hands of Halliwell, she believes it to have been partly attributable to the success Joe was experiencing.

Leonie said: “I think Kenneth’s anger and the murder of Joe stemmed from the feeling that he was so behind.”

She summarised: “Everyone wanted Orton and no one wanted Halliwell.”

Halliwell murdered Joe in their Noel Road home in 1967.

Though Joe moved to Islington from their native Leicester when Leonie was young, and despite his early death, his sister has happy memories of the playwright.

She said: “He was the only person in my early life who was ever truly kind to me and I loved him very much for that.”

A launch for I Had It In Me, published by Quirky Press, will take place at 6.30 pm on November 4 at South Library in Essex Road