Review – Loot, Park Theatre

Wednesday 30 August 2017

We’ve been scratching our heads recently, not just each others, but our own.

When Andrew booked for this production of Joe Orton’s Loot (1965) it was because someone – we know not who –  promised that we needed to book early because it would sell out when an an all-star cast was announced.

So, we waited, and waited, and waited for names we knew and possibly loved to be announced. Nada. Names trickled out and not one we recognised, that was until Phil somehow remembered sitting next to Sinéad Matthews on the tube last year as she studied her Hedda Gabler script. Both Phil and Andrew are convinced they had read the announcement, yet we have no proof. We’ve trawled our emails but can find nothing. Did we both share the same dream one night? Spooky. Heck, our own entourage was more starry than this lot.

Anyhoo, this is Michael Fentiman‘s production which marks the 50th Anniversary of the original production’s Evening Standard Best Play of the Year Award, Orton’s death, and The Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalised homosexualism between two men over the age of 21, just as long as they entertained their privates in private. Phew.

Loot concerns a couple of inept young bank robbers Hal (Sam Frenchum) and Dennis (Calvin Demba), who stash the money in the coffin of the latter’s recently deceased mother’s coffin, then have to dispose of the body. This proves trickier than they think as it keeps popping up all over the place. Wonderfully tasteless.

And what a corpse! We don’t remember seeing a production with someone playing the dead mother before (though we have already proved our memories to be notoriously unreliable). Anah Ruddin does an extraordinary job and deservedly got the biggest cheer of the night for the iniquities she is forced to suffer as she is dragged around the stage, wrapped up as a mummy, plonked in and under a wheelchair, stripped naked, loses her teeth and is generally manhandled and hidden unceremoniously in a cupboard. Upside down. Twice.

But then we liked all the cast. Phil and Andrew’s previous Truscott’s were David Haig and Leonard Rossiter (33 years ago. Eeek) but Christopher Fulford does tremendous smug self-satisfaction and sadistic energetic bluster like the best of them. Frenchum and Demba are gorgeously watchable playing it straight, and less than straight. Ian Redford gloriously confused as the new widower and Matthews splendid as the dead woman’s nurse, the self-inflicted multiply-widowed Fay, deadpanning to hilarious effect. You wouldn’t trust her as far as you could throw the corpse. If the tale is about stealing she wins hands down.

The black funeral parlour styled set (Gabriella Slade) reflects the blackness of the comedy though Phil would have preferred a little less sheen on the gloss paint.

This is the first time the censor’s cuts have been restored in their entirety. The Catholic church, hypocrisy and greed are mocked. Police corruption gets the kind of bashing that would make Line of Duty proud. Even though it is of it’s time, the gags are plentiful and have a curious bonkers logic and feel as witty and fresh – if not as shocking – as they might have been then. There are a couple of very un-PC references that still make you draw in breath, though if you’d been a little unsure at the interval, Act 2 steamrollers through leaving no time to draw breath anyway. It’s all as daft as mowing the lawn in a pair of flip flops.

It proved, on this occasion at least, that it mattered not a jot about “all star” casting. Sometimes faces which are new to us can be more interesting than old ones. Andrew claims to suffer from prosopagnosia anyway so why had he got in such a tizz?







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