Sticky Stories: Joe Orton, Queer History, Queer Dramaturgy

Farrier, Stephen (2017) Sticky Stories: Joe Orton, Queer History, Queer Dramaturgy. Studies in Theatre and Performance, 37 (2). pp. 184-204. ISSN 1468-2761


This paper investigates the resonances of Orton’s work for contemporary queer audiences. By presenting potential reasons for the rise and fall in popularity and visibility of Orton’s work for queer and gay audiences through the 1980s and 1990s, this paper looks to the queer context in which Joe Orton’s work developed in order to explore the queer social history into which it fits.  This sense of queer history is linked to contemporary notions of queer theorising about temporalities and queer dramaturgy, which offers potentially novel ways of engaging with Orton’s work queerly without twisting it to fit a ‘neat’ reading, in part because such readings tend to ‘smooth out’ the more difficult elements of the work.  In particular, the paper explores the theatrical form of farce, often articulated as conservative, in relation to queer positions, which are quite the opposite.  In so doing, the paper, by way of queer temporalities and work on queer dramaturgies, sketches out a reading strategy that does not ignore Orton’s more difficult or stickier elements, in particular his treatment of women and race.


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