Playwright Joe Orton had a short career brought to an untimely end when he was murdered by his lover in 1967. His work often caused outrage at a time when attitudes were far less liberal than today.
Loot opened in Cambridge in February 1965 to scathing reviews. Following a rewrite it had a short run in Manchester this time receiving a more favourable response. The next year Orton completed another rewrite and in September it opened in London, this time it was a success subsequently receiving an Evening Standard Award for Best Play.
At the time, the Lord Chamberlain had powers to censor plays and enforced some of the content be removed in the interests of ‘good manners’. Now fifty years after the death of Orton the play returns to the London stage and is seen uncut for the first time.
Loot is a play of dubious morals and the title alludes to money stolen from a bank by two cheerfully amoral young men, Hal and Dennis. The cash, hidden in the coffin of Hal’s recently deceased mother, is coveted by Fay, a mercenary nurse who will do anything for money; she has already had a series of marriages that appear to have been made solely for the inheritance.
There follows a madcap series of events that holds the attention of the audience throughout. The humour of the writing and the delivery of the material from an excellent seven strong cast make this production a joy to watch from start to finish. It is very funny and far less shocking for a 21st century audience than it was 50 years ago.
Sinéad Matthews is quite brilliant as Fay, the seven time widowed nurse. She commands the stage and is thoroughly convincing in her role. Special mention should also go to Anah Ruddin who, whilst having no lines (she is the dead Mrs McLeavy), manages to get one of the loudest curtain calls for her wonderful performance.
Ian Redford is McLeavy, a devout Catholic widower with a love of roses and father to only child Hal (Sam Frenchum) whose upbringing makes him incapable of lying. Calvin Demba plays Dennis, a ladies’ man who has impregnated five women and yet still has a very ‘close’ relationship with Hal.
Experienced actor Christopher Fulford is the flamboyant and sneaky police inspector who has a less than professional approach to his police duties. Raphael Bar has a lesser role as Meadows, the bobby on the beat.
The dark funereal set (Gabriella Slade) is a perfect accompaniment to the show’s humour. Overall this is a great production and highly recommended.
Rising British stars Calvin Demba (Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award nominee, The Red Lion, National Theatre), Sam Frenchum (Private Peaceful, Grantchester) and award-winning Sinéad Matthews (Mrs Elvsted in Ivo van Hove’s Hedda Gabler, National Theatre), are to star in the 50th anniversary production of Joe Orton’s darkly comic masterpiece, LOOT.
Calvin Demba and Sam Frenchum. Photo by Darren Bell
Uproarious slapstick meets dubious morals as two young friends, Hal (Frenchum) and Dennis (Demba), 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.
When it premiered five decades ago, LOOT shocked and delighted audiences in equal measure and it scooped the Best Play of the Year Award in the 1967 Evening Standard Awards.
LOOT – from the same producers as the recent sell-out hit The Boys in the Band – is directed by Michael Fentiman, whose credits include two acclaimed shows for the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as the critically-acclaimed hit, Raising Martha. It will run at London’s Park Theatre from 17 August – 24 September.
It will then transfer to the Watermill Theatre, Newbury, Berkshire, from 28 September – 21 October.
The production celebrates three 50-year anniversaries: Joe Orton’s death on 9 August 1967; LOOT’s first award-winning West End season at the Criterion Theatre; and the momentous, transformative passing in July 1967 of The Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men over the age of 21.
Calvin had an early break in C4’s Hollyoaks then secured the lead in the hit youth drama Youngers. His other roles include a show-stopping turn in the award-winning play Routes at the Royal Court and the film London Road. He wrote and starred in his first short film RueBoy and will soon be seen in the action film sequel Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle
Sam trained at RADA. He was in Holby City and Doctors then he had a guest starring role in six episodes of Grantchester as Gary Bell, a mentally-challenged teenager sentenced to hang for murder that was really an accident.
Sinéad trained at RADA. Her stage roles include Mrs. Elvsted in Ivo van Hove’s recent Hedda Gabler (National Theatre), Laura in Giving (Hampstead), Jane in Evening at The Talk House (NT), Heather in Wasp (Hampstead). As Hedvig in The Wild Duck, directed by Michael Grandage at the Donmar Warehouse, she won the Ian Charleson Award for Outstanding Newcomer. On film she was Queen Victoria in Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, Miss Topsey in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Alice in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky.
More casting to be announced soon
Director – Michael Fentiman Designer – Gabriella Slade Lighting Design – Elliot Griggs Sound Design – Max Pappenheim Casting Director – Stephen Moore CDG
Produced by Tom O’Connell, James Seabright and The Watermill Theatre in association with King’s Head Theatre and Park Theatre.
by Joe Orton
Thursday 17 August – Saturday 24 September
Box office: 020 7870 6876
Previews: 17 – 19 August Plays: 17 August – 24 September
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