How does a play stand the test of time? Shakespeare, as we know, still works on most levels when performed today. But, what about a more recent piece of writing from, say the 1960s? Would a modern sophisticated theatre audience still appreciate the show without it being ‘updated’? Well, now you can find out by heading to the Park Theatre and seeing Joe Orton’s Loot.
It is the day of Mrs McLeavy’s (Anah Ruddin) funeral and her household are all getting ready in their own way to see her off in a good old fashioned Catholic manner. Her Husband (Ian Redford) is upset and sombre while her nurse, Fay (Sinéad Matthews) is both cheerful and full of the Holy Roman spirit as the time of the funeral draws nearer. Only Hal (Sam Frenchum) the son of the household seems unperturbed by the death of his mother as he hovers suspiciously round a locked cupboard. The funeral proper starts with the arrival of undertaker Dennis (Calvin Demba) – a very good friend of Hal’s – who seems to be under suspicion following the burglary of a local bank. As the party set off, ‘Water Board Inspector Truscott’ (Christopher Fulford) arrives and takes over the house whilst outside, PC Meadows (Raphael Bar) keeps watch. One corpse, a grieving husband, a scheming religious nurse, two handsome young boys acting suspiciously and a dodgy Water Board man, what could possibly go wrong on this most solemn of days?
Loot was originally presented back in 1965 and immediately fell foul of the Lord Chamberlain’s office – not to mention some highly sensitive members of the theatre going public. Seeing it today, and it’s sort of understandable as to why. The language is definitely of a time when political correctness was unknown. The play itself is a skilfully written piece of theatre that takes a not very subtle swipe at Roman Catholics, the police, family life, and sex. It would have been easy to make this a drab, depressing story but Joe Orton, working on the ‘laughter is the best medicine’ principle, has written a truly hilarious show that I would describe as being like the offspring from a one-night stand between a ‘Whitehall Farce’ and a ‘Carry On Movie’, and it really stands out as one of the funniest things I have seen all year.
A good script, and this definitely is one, needs a great cast to deliver it and in the team assembled for Loot you have a truly fine comedy cast. Full credit to everyone on stage for their skills in this both verbally and physically demanding show and I need to single two people out here. First, Anah Ruddin who, without giving too much away, has probably the most difficult and physically demanding role in the show and brings it off with real style. Second, Sinéad Matthews plays the nurse Fay beautifully. Loud and with a profound belief in herself, Fay takes no prisoners in her quest to satisfy her own desires and Sinéad really does seem to relish every moment of Fay’s time on the stage. To be fair, all of the actors seemed to be having a great time as were the audience.
A quick word about the production, which Director Michael Fentiman pulls off with aplomb thanks to the script, cast and Gabriella Slade’s really great set and costumes that really pull the audience into the middle part of the swinging sixties.
All told then, I absolutely loved Loot. Yes it is of its time but that doesn’t matter when the story is such fun. The production is really enjoyable though some of the pacing is off and I felt the actors needed to be more aware of the laughter coming from the audience as there were a couple of occasions when they started speaking too quickly and their words were drowned out. A highly enjoyable if totally irreverent piece of theatre that was a laugh from start to finish.
Review by Terry Eastham
Uproarious slapstick meets dubious morals as two young friends, Hal and Dennis, stash the proceeds of a bank robbery in an occupied coffin, attempting to hide their spoils from the attentions of a psychopathic policeman, a gold-digging nurse and a grieving widower.
The ensuing black comedy – named one of the National Theatre’s “100 Plays of the Century” – shocked and delighted West End audiences in equal measure when the play premiered five decades ago. Sixties style icon Michael Caine loved it so much he saw it six times. Another big fan was Beatle Paul McCartney.
Loot is produced by Tom O’Connell, James Seabright and The Watermill Theatre in association with King’s Head Theatre and Park Theatre.
Raphael Bar (Meadows)
Calvin Demba (Dennis)
Sam Frenchum (Hal)
Christopher Fulford (Truscott)
Sinéad Matthews (Nurse McMahon)
Ian Redford (McLeavy)
Anah Ruddin Mrs McLeavy
The Creative Team
Director Michael Fentiman
Designer Gabriella Slade
Lighting Design Elliot Griggs
Sound Design Max Pappenheim
Casting Director Stephen Moore CDG
LOOT by Joe Orton
London N4 3JP
Plays: 17 Aug – 24 Sep 2017