Between the Lines: Nigel Charnock on the passions of Joe Orton

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Rance: (He advances on Geraldine) Do you think of yourself as a girl?

Geraldine: No

Rance: Why not?

Geraldine: I'm a boy

Rance: (kindly) Do you have the evidence about you?

Geraldine: (her eyes flashing with appeal to Dr Prentice) I must be a boy. I like girls.

(Dr Rance stops and wrinkles his brow, puzzled)

Rance: (aside to Dr Prentice) I can't quite follow the reasoning there.

Prentice: Many men imagine that a preference for women is, ipso facto, a proof of virility.

Rance: (nodding sagely) Someone should really write a book on these folk myths. (To Geraldine) Take your trousers down. I'll tell you which sex you belong to.

Geraldine: (backing away) I'd rather not know]

(From What the Butler Saw,

by Joe Orton)

I deal in sex and violence. Recession? What recession? Although I display my wares with some taste in respectable theatres I must nevertheless profess an insatiable, voyeuristic fascination for other peoples' bodies and what they do with them. From subtle sadism to marauding masochism, I am addicted to behaviour unbecoming - 'bed behaviour' if you like. All the work I'm involved in concerns the way people relate to each other, and the profound lack of communication between what is laughingly referred to as 'humankind'. I revel in conflict, filthy passions and the delicious sewers which make up our fantasies and obsessions. I gain great parasitic delight from affairs of the heart, as long as they're not mine. I think that this fascination with sex, violence and madness led me to Joe Orton, my hero, the James Dean of British playwrights - young, gifted and dead. Oh, to have but one of these qualities. Orton is a genius, he makes you laugh, makes you think, makes you sick. For me his plays have all things good theatre should have: no respect, no shame and no answers.

Nigel Charnock is a former performer with DV8. His adaptation of Shakespeare's sonnets LOVE is at the Purcell Rooms, South Bank (071- 928 8800) from 13 to 15 August.

(Photograph omitted)