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Review | Loot at Park Theatre, London: "A daring and off the charts crazy staging of a classic"
This excellent production of Joe Orton’s seminal play reinstates lines that were taken out by Lord Chamberlain due to their shocking and offensive nature. Lines poking fun at Jesus and S&M are therefore spoken for the first time and it’s enough to make any theatre nerd quite excited.
It is the morning of Mrs McLeavy’s burial and her open coffin lies centre stage. Fresh from a bank robbery, her morally bankrupt son Hal and his ‘friend’ Dennis need somewhere to stash the cash. What better place than the old dear’s coffin? Enter Nurse Fay, the angel of death whose many husbands have mysteriously died, the sadistic police officer Truscott and a grieving husband. Around the corpse, the stage is set for calamity and hilarity in equal measures.
Orton was genuinely shocking for his time and there was nothing he didn’t ridicule in order to highlight hypocrisy. Here the police, religion, family and sexual preferences all come under fire. It still rings true today - children humiliate their parents, coppers can still be bent and religious beliefs often border on the absurd. It’s refreshing to see a piece of theatrical history performed this well and with an excellent cast.
In a truly brilliant decision by director Michael Fentiman the corpse is played by brave actress Anah Ruddin. She is impressively limp, and, well, dead. Her man-handling leaves the audience on edge as she is thrown in and out of the coffin, stripped naked and shoved unceremoniously upside down in a cupboard. It gives an authentic danger that Orton is known for.
Sinead Matthews is absolute perfection as Nurse Fay. Her comedy timing, sense of power and dead pan delivery is the glue that holds it all together. Sam Frenchum as Hal and Calvin Demba as Dennis play off each other with expertise and do not hold back when exploring the ambiguous nature of their friendship. Christopher Fulford excellently conveys Truscott’s bluster, ferocity and sadistic tendencies.
This is a fun filled, action packed evening that is laugh out loud ridiculous while maintaining a danger that Orton would be proud of.
Loot plays at the Park Theatre until 24th September
Words by Matthew Hyde