Being a fan of both The Beat Brothers and doomed playwright Joe Orton, Up Against It has always been interesting to me. Brian Epstein rejected it, of course he did; Orton’s outlaw sexuality was a total wrong fit for the Beatle-buying public circa 1967—but the mixing of two such strong, really important flavors from Swinging London is fascinating.
In 1997, BBC Radio 3 presented a 90-minute adaptation of Up Against It. The cast included such luminaries as Leo McKern and Fawlty Towers‘ Prunella Scales. Having stayed up until 2am listening, I can attest that the finished product is grippingly strange.
The segments are pasted below. But before you listen, a slight “trigger warning”: The screenplay is marred by Orton’s enduring horror of the female, which has not aged well at all. In Up Against It, women are the maintainers of social norms, and as such come in for rough treatment; even the sympathetic women feel distinctly hollow. This is probably not the place to discuss this in depth, but certainly back then (and perhaps still today) there was a strain of male homosexual culture that seemed to be organized around anti-female lines. A horror of birth; a sense of basic female duplicity; rebellion against the mother? I can’t say, but whenever I encounter it, I’m reminded that the patriarchy’s most powerful trick is to turn its victims against each other.
(H/t to Stephen Kroninger.)