Diary: Orton’s message from beyond the grave – ‘ban this filth’

Jack Holden and Rufus-Hound in What the Butler Saw at Curve Leicester. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
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This week in Leicester, a production of Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw has resurrected the dead. They’ve not dug up Richard III again, but a well-known derider of Orton’s work, Edna Welthorpe, has returned to have a pop at Curve’s new version.

In a letter tweeted by director Nikolai Foster, Mrs Welthorpe explains she is horrified to see the play back on our stages, displaying “the same nasty characters engaged in the same lurid shenanigans”.

She goes on: “As a citizen and erstwhile taxpayer, it’s my duty to insist that public money be spent on decent, family entertainment not a depraved drama about sexual irregularity. There’s enough of that in Holby City.”

Well, Tabard doesn’t take criticism of our beloved Holby well – it keeps half our actors in business after all. But that wasn’t enough for Edna. She requests a “good, clean musical” and fires a backhanded compliment at Clark’s shoe shop (“not up to the standards of yore but still the best on the high street”) before her work is done. Scandalous.

The production must have elicited reactions from beyond the grave, since Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) was an alter ego of Orton himself. Her outraged letters to the press about Orton’s work whipped up controversy and generated column inches. Perhaps this is a contemporary attempt to do the same. But at least someone is embodying Edna’s spirit 50 years after Orton’s death. Here’s hoping she strikes again.

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