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Funeral Games (play)

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Title: Funeral Games (play)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Joe Orton, Baz Luhrmann, List of works published posthumously, What the Butler Saw (play), Funeral games (disambiguation)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Funeral Games (play)

Funeral Games
Written by Joe Orton
Characters Pringle, Caulfield, Tess, McCorquodale, Police Officers
Date premiered 26 August 1968 (1968-08-26)
Original language English
Genre Farce

Funeral Games is a 60 minute play by Joe Orton. It was his final television play, and was first performed after his death.

It was written for Yorkshire Television, and broadcast on August 26, 1968[1] as part of their series of dramas based on The Seven Deadly Virtues.

Funeral Games followed the general format of the other plays in the series The Seven Deadly Virtues (by other playwrights), in that viewers were supposed to decide which virtue they were witnessing before the answer was revealed in the closing credits. The choices available were justice, prudence, temperance, courage (fortitude), faith, hope and charity.[2] Funeral Games can be seen as a satire on the theme of Christian charity. It is also an attack on hypocrisy in general, and on religion and middle-class morality in particular.

The play displays Orton's hallmarks of black humour, outrageous characters, deliberate bad taste and surreal situations.


Cult leader, preacher and con artist Pringle hires the thuggish criminal Caulfield to investigate an anonymous report that his wife Tess is having an affair with a defrocked Catholic priest.

It seems as if the report is mistaken, and Tess's visits to the priest McCorquodale are innocent. However, McCorquodale has killed his own wife, and buried her in the cellar. Pringle still wishes to kill Tess, but instead tells people she has 'gone away', a classic ploy used when one has killed one's wife. His intention is to gain respect as a killer. Tess agrees to live out of sight with McCorquodale.

Pringle's plans are in danger of being ruined when a reporter threatens his new reputation by suspecting that Tess is not dead at all, and accuses Pringle of being innocent.

Production history

Orton wrote Funeral Games in several drafts between July and November 1966, a period of intense productivity for him.[3] Funeral Games is considered to be the transitional play between Loot and What the Butler Saw.

In common with much of Orton's work, Funeral Games was regarded as very shocking in England on its first production, much more so than it would be now. Funeral Games is often mentioned as one of the plays that changed the cultural climate in England sufficiently to end the practice of the Lord Chamberlain acting as official censor to English theatre productions.[4][5]

The play has long-term popularity with amateur and fringe theatre companies in England.

The script of the play was first published by Methuen (Modern Plays series, 1970).


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