New BBC Radio 3 drama inspired by rare Joe Orton manuscript

A rare and previously unpublished manuscript by playwright Joe Orton located within the Joe Orton Archive has inspired an upcoming BBC Radio 3 drama.

The drama, ‘The Visa Affair’, which airs on Sunday 9 October will draw upon the manuscript, which outlines how in 1965 Joe Orton visited the American Embassy in London to get a visa to attend the New York Broadway rehearsals and opening of his West End hit, Entertaining Mr Sloane, and the difficulties he faced in doing so – including being interrogated.

Dr Emma Parker from the School of Arts explained the context of ‘The Visa Affair’ in her introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Entertaining My Sloane, published by Bloomsbury in 2014.

Dr Parker said: “Imprisoned by the very standards his play disdains, Orton's anger at this humiliating treatment fed his subsequent attack on state authority and the medical establishment in his next two plays, Loot and What the Butler Saw.”

In the BBC Radio 3 broadcast of ‘The Visa Affair’, which is written by Jake Arnott, Orton has just found success in the UK after years of obscurity, and Broadway beckons, but events in his past threaten his American dream.

As embassy staff challenge him about his criminal record, listeners follow a labyrinthine struggle as Joe is forced to defer to authority, deny his sexuality, and to look again at his subversive acts and how they affected his writing and work.

Throughout, Orton plays a game of hide and seek with bureaucracy – evading its surveillance whilst revealing its absurdity. Orton’s own narrative voice forms the heart of this drama.

‘The Visa Affair’ will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 9 October between 9:00PM – 10:15PM