Clippings of a MadMan, the collage work of Kenneth Halliwell

As I seem to be exploring the nastiness of man through art; Punch and his violent antics, Macheath’s brutality towards womankind in Three Penny Opera, I thought I should finish off this unholy trio with some nasty gay antics. In particular Kenneth Halliwell and the playwright Joe Orton.

It’s difficult for a person of culture not to know and admire Orton, Entertaining Mister Sloan,one of the darkest , funniest plays about. Much has been said about Joe, his life, his talents.

What I have been curious about is his oft maligned “lover”, Kenneth Halliwell. I hesitate to describe Kenneth as a partner, lover,  or spouse, as their relationship seemed pretty odious, even without the murder/suicide. Orton , an unrepentant flirt, openly engaged  in trysts that enraged Halliwell, Halliwell morose and apparently so unpleasant that society went to great measures to avoid contact with him.

What has always struck me as curious was Halliwell’s devotion to the art of collage. I must say I am not a fan of collage. Victorian decoupage, charming;  20th century “mixed media”, not so much.

I have read the occasional biography of Orton,his working class background, his sordid relationship with Halliwell, the debauchery in Tangiers.

Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell

An unfortunate image, the uncomfortable personal dynamic apparent.

Orton the adorable talented flirt, Kenneth, resentful and betrayed.


What was always in the background  was collage, their Islington apartment, apparently cramped and uncomfortable, was made more so by Kenneth’s clipping and pasting.

Joe Orton

b. 1st January 1933

d. 9th August 1967

All in all a rather  successful wall treatment.

(Although it does remind me of my barbershop, plastered with clippings of hot boys and girls. )

I have known of Halliwell’s passion for collage, but not seen examples of it. I thought it time to remedy that.

Thank God for Google.

Kenneth Halliwell

b.23rd June 1926

d.9th August 1967



Attributed to Kenneth Halliwell.

Untitled, date unknown.

I must say I have little to comment on. The work seems competently constructed, the first handsome with an underlying Cubist aesthetic. The second reminds me of a lot of 60’s graphic art, clipping and pulling across cultures and time. I don’t particularly like it, but I want to . My heart goes out to Halliwell, he was crushed. Orton handsome, young, charming, and  deeply talented. Halliwell, older, not respected, perhaps without any true talent, clipping furiously in their dreary little apartment. Such a sad ,sad mess ultimately ending in a bloody horror.

For that reason alone I would like to admire his work.

If perhaps Orton’s society crowd was a bit warmer, a little less snubbing a lot less bitchy ; if Halliwells work was given a chance, perhaps, just perhaps, that hammer wouldn’t have struck Joe’s head eight awful times. I don’t know, I do know that empathy works wonders.

Early in their relationship Orton and Halliwell went on an artistic rampage, stealing and defacing books from the Islington library. Their creative antics landed them in jail for “theft and defacement”. Seems a bit harsh, a fine would have seemed sufficient.

The following images are examples of this early collaborative work. Perhaps it was a happier time for their relationship. The images are amusing.

Queens Favorite

The Three Faces of Eve

love the kitty

The Lunts

Image above sourced from the always wonderful Feuliton.

Alec Clunes
Storm Drift
All in all, kind of puerile not particularly interesting.
The mischievous antics came to an August 9th 1967 at 25 Noel Road, Islington. The house bears a commemorative plaque to Orton, no mention is made of Halliwell.
A sad legacy.
25 Noel Road
Recquiscat in Pace Messrs Halliwell and Orton
Good Night


9 Responses to “Clippings of a MadMan, the collage work of Kenneth Halliwell”

  1. A very claustrophobic and destructive relationship. Orton could be a nasty piece of work, though I do love him for his impishness and cheeky working class attitude, something that was relatively new in 1960s Britain.
    Halliwell was possessive, insecure and limited socially, he couldn’t possibly shine and dazzle like Orton.

    I have never really looked at Halliwell’s art work properly, always seeing it as derivative Victorian decoupage, but actually they are really quite good for what they are. It is a shame that his creative work was snubbed by the fashionable, but bitchy London set. In some respects they, along with Orton, created the monster that killed him.

    I do remember vaguely seeing a report of the murder on TV. I was very young and didn’t understand the relationship between Orton and Halliwell and wanted to know what it all meant. Adults around me shut the conversation down and told me it was nothing to concern me. Ah, life in the free form Sixties.

    Anyone who hasn’t, should really read Orton’s diaries as they are wonderful and extremely funny, as is the movie ‘Prick Up Your Ears’.

    I am a big Orton fan and have been for years, so a big thankyou for this great article!

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      I’ve only read the bio “Prick Up your Ears”, will look for the diaries.

      Claustrophobic indeed, painful.
      I am re-reading “Entertaining Mr. Sloan”, frankly it’s awful, not as a piece of art, but as an experience. Devastatingly cruel behavior, I am reminded of Sartre’s equally bleak “No Exit”, no exit from the misery concerning Orton And Halliwell. The glib references in the play to nembutal are disturbing to say the least.

      Orton may have been cheeky, or just sadistic, a talented sadist. i will allow the analysts to decide.
      Thanks as always for your thoughtful comments.

    • jim pennington Says:

      Good collage always looks easier to do than it is..especially in those days when the images couldn’t be faffed about in photoshop so that the perspectives and proportions were correct. Exhibitions of the jackets are infrequent but if you get the opportunity to go to one then look closely at the added images.. they are done so well it is very difficult to see the join. (Apparently the trick is to use a sharp scalpel cutting at an angle to the edge of the paper.)
      In one of the bios there’s a photo of Halliwell’s poster for Loot – a montage of typography that looks very like the ‘word cloud’ images that have only just now become fashionable and accepted.

  2. […] 1967) Brian Epstein / Managed The …Color in Motion: René Magritte « Sound Colour VibrationClippings of a MadMan, the collage work of Kenneth HalliwellChart Digging: August 5, 1967 « Echoes In The WindThe Girls of Summer: DeDe Lind, Miss August 1967 […]

  3. Thank you for this. I watched Prick up your Ears for the first time tonight. Couldn’t quite believe that Orton was that cruel. I have very fond memories of watching Loot for my theatre studies A level some 20 odd years ago and sorry to find him quite so narcicissistic. I felt for Ken, pathetic though he was. Shame that so little of his prose survived. I quite like some of his collage stuff. product of a tortured mind no doubt and that horribly claustrophobic bedsit they shared. Anyway, always nice to stumble across an interesting blog post when idly googling! Cheers, Jools

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      I understand completely the dismay at finding Orton to not be the “good guy” one would hope for. It doesn’t hinder my respect and admiration for his work but yes it is a bit of a damper.
      I’m not sure of what I think of Halliwell’s collage work, might just be my ignorance concerning the medium, but it seems to really illustrate his frustrations. I too would be clipping madly around someone so very gifted and full of piss and vinegar (-;
      Happy you liked the post, take care,

  4. Bit unfair, the treatment here of Halliwell. As you all know he was the older one, the well read one, the one who ironed out Orton’s rougher edges. At a certain point Orton overtook him having the gift of charm and the cheek to push his way forward. Halliwell could only feel inferior to his former protege. Imagine a time when being bald was a anxiety inducing nightmare, being queer an imprisonable offence and that without all the other claustrophobic circumstances including poverty that beset them. Give some more credit to Halliwell . I saw his collages and they are well put together, interesting, a good level. He was Orton’s partner, educator, foil and shares Orton’s prizes.

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