The Ruffian on the Stair


A love triangle, incest, a murder or two, suspicion, loss and loneliness. And a goldfish, of course. The Ruffian on the Stair was British playwright Joe Orton’s breakthrough work, written during a jail sentence for vandalizing books with his lover Kenneth Halliwell. It marked the start of his meteoric rise and an extraordinarily fecund period that includes the farce masterpieces Loot, Entertaining Mr Sloane and What the Butler Saw. Like Wilde, with whom Orton was often compared, his end was as dramatic as his plays: at the age of 34 Kenneth Halliwell bludgeoned him to death with a hammer. Today Orton’s reputation, through his plays, earlier novels and riotous diaries is secure. His life has been turned into a film and a play. This is the first rendering of one of his plays as an opera.

Running time:

c. 70 minutes


Flute (doubling alto flute), oboe (doubling cor anglais), clarinet in Bb (doubling bass clarinet), bassoon (doubling contrabassoon), horn in F


Drum Kit

Acoustic Guitar (discreetly amplified)


Strings (preferably 2 per part)

Voice Parts:

JOYCE, soprano; WILSON, tenor; MIKE, bass