Review – Loot, Tricycle Theatre

Monday 15 December 2008

loot-tricycleWhat a shambles. What a complete and utter shambles. And how entertaining.

Now that the Menier Chocolate factory has  – for the moment at least – caved in, the Whingers (never ones to rest on their laurels when there’s a handy theatre bar to lean against instead) thought it their duty to turn their attention to the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn.

Regular readers may recall that in an unexpected decision which sent shockwaves through the industry, the Tricycle was the recipient of the Award for Worst Seating in last year’s Whingies and it is looking a dead cert that they will steal the title this year too.

But before judging, the Whingers wanted to get the full picture of the awfulness of the seating policy (and it’s not just us – Russell thinks it’s shocking; so does Helen). So they took a trip up the Jubilee Line to Kilburn on Saturday afternoon to take in the matinee of Joe Orton‘s Loot.

The curtain was scheduled to go up at 4pm; the doors to open at 3.30pm so to ensure that they got the full effect the Whingers turned up at 3.15pm which put them third and fourth in the queue.

The doors opened at about 3.40pm and people raced to get seats, not only for themselves but for other people. The practice of saving seats principally involves plonking coats and bags and either looking intimidating or nonchalant. Within a matter of minutes people and coats were sprinkled around the auditorium leaving only odd single seats here and there.

The three back rows of the stalls are the numbered seats. These, of course, were completely empty. For reasons not clear, some side sections were roped off.

Within 10 minutes the place was crawling with couples desperately seeking the opportunity to sit together. The master-stroke in the Tricyle’s Krypton Factor game is that only one end of each row has access. Turn the whole thing on its side and put it vertically and it resembles a live version of Tetris.

The final icing on the cake is the presence of the ushers who go around saying “Do you need any help?”. The great genius here is that they only help you have reserved seats, otherwise you are let loose into the jungle to survive as best you can.

Needless to say, the audience was not seated by 4pm.

Anyway, after all this drama Sean Holmes* production could only be a disappointment and so it proved to be.

For the uninitiated Loot is the farce where the bank robbers hide the money in the recently deceased mother’s coffin, all executed in what was at the time (1966) the worst possible taste.

David Haig makes a very effective Truscott (wonderfully violent as he beats up Matt Di Angelo‘s Hal) and James Hayes is a superb as McCleavy. Doon Mackichan does her thing very well.

But it never really took off. There was one very exciting moment when Haig dropped the glass eye and it rolled promisingly towards the edge of the stage. Sadly it didn’t make it into the audience.

Orton still has the power to provoke as in Fay’s topical admission that: “Had euthanasia not been against my religion I would have practised it. Instead I decided to murder her” and Orton’s references to the police (“The British police force used to be run by men of integrity”) still resonate.

Phil perked up at the copious Papal references as only last Monday while in Rome he received his own personal wave (he speaketh the truth here) from Pope Ben (he now feels intimate enough with the current pope to refer to him thus – in fact he was so impressed with his close up view he may even dump his prejudices and do a Blair).

But the Whingers couldn’t help wondering what a Warchus (who revived Boeing, Boeing so brilliantly) or a Grandage (who can do anything – even reveal the comedy in a Shakespeare) could have made of the material. Memories of the famous Leonard Rossiter revival were impossible to expunge, despite the fact that the Whingers (who saw it long before they met; happy days) are able to remember very little about it apart from it being hilarious, but then it was nearly 25 years ago. Shocking.

Phil was so bored he began staring at the Tricycle logo on the auditorium carpet and began to imagine it as the name Joe. If you must see this lacklustre production try it. He’s now suffering his usual Sunday hangover and beginning to see Pinter in his own shag pile.


* During the 25 minutes at their disposal waiting for the curtain to go up the Whingers passed the time bickering about who the director Sean Holmes is and was. Andrew said he was at the RSC; Phil swore Andrew was thinking of Sean Mathias. Anyway, for the record Holmes did a terrific job directing the first rate screwball comedy Moonlight and Magnolias at the Tricycle but also the early-closing Treasure Island starring Keith Allen. Next year he will become the Lyric Hammersmith’s new artistic director. Apparently his qualities include all-round niceness as well as directing talent.


48 Responses to “Review – Loot, Tricycle Theatre”

  1. Elly Hopkins Says:

    Thanks so much for your comment on our website. All your comments duly noted, ignored and binned – as the Tricycle is such a ghastly experience for you we would hate to put you through any more agony, so maybe it would be better for your blood pressure if you confined your theatre going to the West End – as your blog implies!

  2. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    Oooooh! Handbags at dawn!

  3. Fame! Glorious fame! Given my own link in a Whingers review! Ahahahahahahaha! (manic laughter)

    Ms Hopkins obviously suffers from delusions of some not inconsiderable self-importance, Mr. Worthing.

  4. How disappointing, but thanks for the review you’ve saved me a trip to Kilburn. All I can remember of the Leonard Rossiter ‘Loot’ (apart from the fact I saw it the week he died) was that Neil Pearson played Hal.

    I saw the Di’Angelo person on some TV show at the weekend, seemed like a moron, as do so many sitcom and soap luvvies when asked about theatre. Let’s hope Matthew (Gavin and Stacey) Horne makes a better fist of Sloane when it opens in January.

  5. Lavretsky Says:

    Are we to understand that Elly Hopkins speaks on behalf of the Tricycle Theatre?

    If so,in what capacity?

  6. What kind of representative of a theatre publicly tells a couple of moderately influential bloggers that the venue is interested neither in their patronage nor their feedback, and pretty much advises them to stay away? Did it not occur to you that this might make both you and the Trike look humourless and offhand, even contemptuous? And if you’re not posting on formal behalf of the Tricycle, aren’t they going to be unpleasantly surprised to see the impression you’ve given of them? Such a loss to the Diplomatic Service, Elly…

  7. Seth Says:

    I too saw Di Angelo on the tv show at the weekend referred to above, and he actually came across as likeable and charming. He said this was his first time doing theatre, and to say he was talking like a moron is unfair – he knows he’s hardly Laurence Olivier and he’s not professing to be. I saw Loot on the opening night and loved it, as did most of the audience. Though it has to be said the seating policy is the most bizarre I have ever come across.

  8. @Ian: Unfortunately the Tricycle don’t have a list of staff on their website, and the name “Elly Hopkins” isn’t uncommon enough to land a direct hit on Google so it’s difficult to verify short of calling the venue and asking to speak to such person, which would be undoubtedly awkward.

    I have to say that I’ve never been to the Tricycle despite living near Kilburn and walking past it when shopping and this mess isn’t encouraging me to start.

  9. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    Ever since “Shoah: the Show” I’ve been wary of posts from isolated ‘audience members’ who claim to adore what most others loathe.

    Would checks and balances ruin this site?

  10. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    (Of course such measures would silence me, but maybe that’s long overdue…)

  11. Yeah, but clicking on Ms Hopkins name takes you direct to the theatre’s website. Stupid girl! Remember the brouhaha when two members of Royal Festival Hall staff tried to “big up” their dreadful production of The Wizard of Oz on a public site? At least they had the (relative) good sense to use pseudonyms (but were traced back to the RFH by the IP addresses they were using.

  12. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    Exit, you’re not by any chance related to the Northern pop-beat combo N-Trance, are you?

  13. There’s an Elly Hopkins on Facebook; her profile says she’s a fan of Matt Di Angelo. Coincidence? The same profile says that she is an alumnus of Bristol University. Theres a profile on of an Elly Hopkins who is a photographer and who has (or had) a Bristol university email address. The coincidences are piling up.

    Who takes the production photographs for the Tricycle’s shows? Would it be……Elly Hopkins?

  14. And a quick call to the Tricycle reveals that Ms. Hopkins works in the Box Office…….

  15. Being hopelessly unhip, I havent the faintest idea who N-Trance are, so am afraid don’t get the reference. Explanations welcome.

    But I am thinking about becoming a private detective a la Hercule Poirot

  16. Caroline Says:

    Well, I’d already taken a chance and booked a ticket (a cheap one, for a weekday matinee) and I still intend to go, despite the notorious queueing and unreserved seating issue. But on this subject, does no-one ever attend the Orange Tree in Richmond? Very high standard of productions BUT the chaotic “queueing” (aka scrum) and unreserved seating is such a nightmare that it’s now deterring me from attending. You have to be waiting on the steps, before the building even opens, to have any chance of being near the front of the next queue, in the foyer, which becomes hopelessly overcrowded and if you go alone, you daren’t move for a moment. Then you find others pushing in because one person is queueing on behalf of a couple or group and to cap it all, when you do finally enter the auditorium and secure a seat, the ushers may ask you to move along to make room for latecomers who haven’t made the effort even to arrive on time, let alone early.

  17. Seth Says:

    According to my Loot programme, Elly Hopkins is the marketing director for the Tricycle. Frankly I am shocked a representative for any theatre would make such flippant comments on a website.

  18. Lavretsky Says:

    Perhaps she doesn’t know she is the marketing director or didn’t read the job description properly?

  19. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    This Tricycle obviously needs stabilisers…

  20. robsangel Says:

    I read the “Whingers blog” regular and enjoy your barbed and usually very witty commentary on your theatre visits. However I really can’t agree with the outrage shown by other commentators when a theatre representative decides to bite back.

    If you know a theatre has an unreserved seating policy when you book, you accept that this type of scrum is going to be part of your evening so to focus on it rather than the performance every time you go to a production at that theatre is just counter productive.

    PS I don’t work for the Tricycle but I am a regular theatre-goer who quite likes getting there early to bag the best seats even if I’m late in booking!!!!

  21. Seth Says:

    I don’t think it is about the fact a theatre representative decided to ‘bite back’ , it’s more about the way it was sarcastic and unprofessional. I didn’t actually complain about the seating policy, I just mentioned it was bizarre.

  22. Lavretsky Says:

    It would not be counter productive if a theatre which has an unreserved seating policy responded with an eloquent explanation – from an officially described representative – of their reasons for pursuing such a policy

    A reasonable discussion may inform both that theatre and its clientele.

  23. Sam London Says:

    And i thought it was going to be all those jokes in the play about Pakistani child prostitutes doing it “for sweets” that would prove controversial. But actually I am stunned at the behaviour of the tricycle woman. When I went last night there were only 3 unreserved rows in the stalls. Not too much of a scrum at all. So clearly the unreserved seating scrum is dependent on how many people are willing to pay a surcharge for a reserved seat. That’s matinee supersaves audiences, for you perhaps? and can I add, that if you have never queued with rival parents for the school nativity play you don’t know the true depravity that unreserved seating can unleash in the human psyche. I have seen things that would make Jesus very sad.

  24. That last line should be this blog’s motto – at least it’d get me out of the trap of “moderately influential”…

  25. zahid fayyaz Says:

    I like unreserved seating myself: just get there early!

    Saying that, a very rude response from the tricycle, am very surprised. Normally pleasant staff there.

  26. Tom Stoppard et al. Says:

    We, the undersigned, demand that Elly Hopkins resign from the Tricycle Theatre

    Tom Stoppard
    Harold Pinter
    Edward Bond
    Alan Ayckbourne
    Edward Albee
    David Hare

  27. We, the undersigned, demand that Elly Hopkins be recognised in the New Year’s Honours List for putting the West End Whingers in their place.

    Phil Whinger
    Andrew Whinger

  28. Lavretsky Says:

    Was that a reserved or an unreserved place?

  29. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    There is a rhythm to this thread that cries out to be turned into a song. And I’m just the man to do it. “Noted, Ignored and Binned” will be as popular a standard as “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”.

  30. Lavretsky Says:

    I’m wild again
    Beguiled again
    A simpering, whimpering child again
    Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

  31. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    “We filed our crit
    Were reviled for it
    A Tricycle icicle had a fit
    Noted, ignored and binned are we…”

    More verses please – let’s make this the longest running musical in West End Whingerdom…

  32. Naeem Kapadia Says:

    Decided to avail myself of a cheap matinee ticket today and was unpleasantly surprised to find that nearly three rows of the ‘unreserved seating’ in the stalls were reserved.

    That aside, the only thing more alarming that Elly’s retort was David Haig’s (Truscott) propensity for perspiration. I spent most of the latter half of the play waiting to see if sweat would drip on to the floor and it did. Twice!

  33. vauhalldave Says:

    “Here I couldn’t sit,
    There I wouldn’t sit
    Bags and coats and ropes told me where I shouldn’t sit
    Noted, ignored and binned are we..”

  34. Begging the Beguine Says:

    “We’re disdained again
    Embroiled within
    A tricycle tray of unreserved scorn
    Noted, ignored and binned are we…”

  35. Schiaparelli Says:

    I know this controversy’s long gone quiet, but I must just de-lurk to say I saw Loot tonight and was bristling with belated indignation on your behalf — you’re 100% right about the seating policy, it’s demented. No-one would shift up, so the staff made me move a fellow customer and clamber over his seat (in a skirt!) to get to an isolated space in the middle of the second row. Production all right, David Haig a treat as ever, but I’m not dying to go back to the Trike.

  36. Nina Says:

    I tried to post a (as I thought) politely regretful comment on the Trike’s board for Deep Cut saying that I had throughly enjoyed this insightful play in Edinburgh and was sorry that I should have to brave their “seating policy” (sic) if I wished to see it again near London. I was moderated out of existence!

  37. JohnC Says:

    Loot at the Tricycle is a sparkling revival of a dazzling play. The pace of the production is astounding, and there are few comedies where the gags come so thick and fast. A whirlwind of subversive humour delivered in the style and at a pace intended by the author. Possible that there has never been such an apposite production. Loot has had a shakey history, and then has been perhaps eclipsed by the masterpiece that is What the Butler Saw. This production now sets off all the verbal brilliance of Orton’s talent, well honed even before Butler. In terms of the density of the humour and subverted logic, it out-Wildes Wilde. Well done, Tricyle! Not just another revival; not just another production!

  38. Ian Shuttleworth Says:

    I see Elly’s undergone gender reassignment, then…

  39. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit Crunch Says:

    That, or she/he’s wandered over from the Holocaust Musical Tribute Page…

  40. Nathan Martin Says:

    I know enough about the Tricycle to know that the above comment is unlikely have come from Elly, or anyone from the Tric.

    The Tricycle seating may not be perfect (some days far from), but to ‘facebook’ and slate a person on a blog without questioning where that comment might have come from is pathetic.

    ‘Whingers’ doesn’t do you justice, more like Miserable Petty West End W***ers.

    Next time Iets hope you get trampled.

    Nathan Martin (experienced duty manager) xx
    Ps, I wont leave more details incase you have nothing better to do than look me up on facebook

  41. […] of a recent brouhaha when someone claiming to be the Tricycle’s marketing manager left us a comment suggesting that we not bother darkening the Tricycle’s door […]

  42. “(experienced duty manager)”

    In what culture is this something to brag about?

  43. I have never found The Orange Tree a problem. It is a delightful small, neat, theatre and almost any seat on ground floor is acceptable. The rake is good, the productions are almost without exception well done, if occasionally one is dubious about the choice. Yes, there is always a small queue but it is not problematic to arrive early particularly as one is queueing right next to the bar! The theatre doesn’t hold enough people to cause a real problem.One of my favourite places.

  44. After one whole quart of brandy
    To far Kilburn we repair
    With no seating ushers handy
    We don’t even care

    Loot is not a new sensation
    Rossiter was best we pledge
    But this half-pint imitation
    Set our teeth on edge

    We’re wild again, beguiled again
    Two fingering*, whingering childs again
    Noted, ignored and binned – are we.

    Couldn’t rest and wouldn’t rest
    When Marketing told us we weren’t the best
    Noted, ignored and binned – are we.

    Lost our rags, but what of it
    Elly’s hard, we confess
    Tricyclic-ally** speaking
    She’s at her evil best.

    It’s time again, for fire again
    Let’s burn down her Kilburn empire again
    Noted, ignored and binned – no more.

    • – as in keyboards
    ** – as in prescription medication

  45. […] But then it was very controversial. Michael Billington spluttered, “Does John Barrowman really have more power than Nick Kent who runs the Tricycle Theatre?” which is certainly true on our case because – as far as we know – John Barrowman has never barred us from anything whereas the Tricycle has. […]

  46. […] highs are rarely reached. The closest the London theatre blogosphere comes to controversy is spirited debate about unreserved seating policies or the repercussions of a critic getting nudged on the back of the head. There’s nobody who […]

  47. […] lucky that it happened now and not six (or twelve months) later, just as the Tricycle is lucky that this happened in 2009. It’s time, however, not just for (if an organisation is lucky) having one […]

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