Saturday, June 26, 2010

Up Against It

I had no idea that Joe Orton's screenplay "Up Against It" which he wrote with the Beatles in mind, had been produced for the stage until today - there's a review in the NYTimes from 1989. Says the review:
Following the screenplay, the story chronicles the misadventures of three prodigal friends (Orton had eliminated the George Harrison role after the Beatles turned down the script) who are victimized in a flagrant battle between the sexes. They become involved in a plot to assassinate the first female Prime Minister of Britain. Wherever McTurk turns, on land or at sea, he encounters the entire cast.

The book is spotted with rude Orton remarks about Church, State and sex. In response to a statement that a priest has been wrestling with his conscience all afternoon, McTurk asks, ''Who won?'' Such moments are far outweighed by the alterations in the script and by the interruption of Mr. Rundgren's score. The show, which is set in the 1960's, also reaches far afield for anachronistic jokes. (In her acceptance speech, the Prime Minister gushes, ''You like me, you really like me.'') Mistakes are exacerbated in Mr. Elliott's comic strip-style production. Best known for his direction of plays by Charles Busch, he approaches Orton in a similar vein, turning absurdist farce into camp caricature and overplaying the war of genders to the point of misogyny.

One of the pivotal decisions was whether to attempt to imitate the Beatles. The show's response is self-contradictory. The three characters speak in insecure Liverpool accents. Two have Beatle hairdos and mannerisms, while the third, Mr. Casnoff, acts less like a Beatle than like a Rolling Stone. Roger Bart, in the guise of Ringo Starr, is the closest to having a Beatle-mien, but, in common with his colleagues, he is undercut by the circumstances.

As Joe Orton wrote in his diary:
"I hadn't the heart to tell (Beatles film producer Walter Shenson) that the Beatles in my script have been caught in-flagrante, become involved in dubious political activity, dressed as women, committed murder, been put in prison and committed adultery. And the script isn't finished yet." 11th February 1967

Joe Orton was played by Gary Oldman in "Prick Up Your Ears." He talks about the Beatles script in this clip.

A friend of Orton's discusses his murder.

Actor Bruce Barton performs in a current production of Orton's "Loot".