Joe Orton’s The Visitors was written in 1961, just a year before his arrest for defacing library books and two years before writing his masterpiece, Entertaining Mr Sloane.
The play tells the story of the fractious relationship between Kemp and his daughter Mrs Platt. Dying in a hospital, Kemp is visited by his relentlessly cheery and patronising daughter who censors both herself and those around her preventing Kemp from forming any sort of lasting connection with her. To add insult to injury, he is surrounded by a bevy of nurses who also talk in meaningless platitudes and who spend more time fighting than looking after their patients. Kemp is the voice of distrust throughout the play, voicing concern over hollow sentiment and false language. Many critics see in Kemp and Mrs Platt the blueprint for the father/daughter duo of Kemp and Kath in Entertaining Mr Sloane. Indeed, Orton often referenced and rewrote his own work – in The Visitors Mrs Platt mentions in passing many of the characters from his earlier play, Fred and Madge.
The groundwork laid in these early plays would later come into fruition with the success of The Ruffian on the Stair on BBC Radio and later, the first production of Entertaining Mr Sloane at the New Arts Theatre in 1964.