by Joe Orton
Directed & Designed by Lisa Marsh
Mrs Macleavy is dead and on the day of her funeral the only wish of her lay preacher husband is to see her depart this world with a modicum of dignity, but his vain attempts are continuously thwarted by those gathered to comfort him.
His son Hal, a local rascal with the sexual veracity of a dog on Viagra and morals to match, has with his mate Dennis just pulled a bank job and is looking for a place to stash the 'loot'. Nurse MacMahon, Mrs Macleavy's good Catholic nurse, is certainly not what she appears and could well be offering more than just her nursing services to the assembled company. As they approach the precipice of insanity, the arrival of the sinister Truscot 'Of The Yard' forces them to take a flying leap over the edge, as under his watchful eye disorder turns to chaos with hilarious, if dire, consequences, and a happy ending for some - but not all ... "
- Mr McLeavy - Tony Emerson
- Fay MacMahon - Annie Hayes
- Hal McLeavy - Rob Sloan
- Dennis - Steve Brown
- Inspector Truscott - Chris Bennett
- Meadows - James Paterson
- Stage Managers - Jess Osorio & Fiona Daffern
- Production Assistant - Andrew Rickinson
- Lighting Design - Mike Elliott
- Lighting Operator - Emma Howcutt
- Sound Design - Lisa Marsh & Andrew Rickinson
- Sound Operator - Tikiri Hulugalle
- Fight Choreographer - Anton Krause
- Props - Alan Buckman & Fiona Daffern
- Costumes - Jenny Bennett & Jessica Osorio
- Hair & Wigs - Jay Michaels
- Corpse Make-up - Aeon Henderson
- Set Construction & Decoration - Bob Callender, Fiona Daffern, Mike Elliott, Chris Unwin, Tikiri Hulugalle, Paul Hurley, Anton Krause, Lisa Marsh, Jo Molloy, Andrew Rickinson & the cast
- Front of House - John Watson
- Publicity - Dee Fancett, Will Howard & Anna York
- With special thanks to Alan Buckman, Mike Elliott, Stuart Flitton, Paul Hurley, Anton Krause, Lancasters, Matthew Lyne, Chris Vian-Smith and the cast and crew of Two.
I didn't think I would enjoy this play.
Orton is notoriously difficult to perform. The language is unique. Having studied the classical authors, under his mentor Halliwell, Orton applied their use of rhetoric, sentence construction, and story telling, but using the lingua franca of 60s London.
Rather like approaching Wilde or Shaw - or even earlier dramatists such as Wycherley and Shakespeare - there is an art to speaking Orton.
The characters are grotesques. They do not speak like we do - they have an individual rhythm and measure to their speech patterns. Each sentence is more of a rhetorical proclamation, as opposed to a 'realistic' dialogue between two men on the street.
That said, there are modern paralells to Orton. The people of the West Midlands often speak in an Ortonesque way - peppering normal speech patterns with pretensions and business-letter speak. So rather than saying, 'remember we spoke last week about the car' they might say (in a Brummie accent!) 'remember last week we spoke vis a vis the car.' Not quite Orton - but something approaching it.
Finding the measure of this speech, rather like sifting through verse to find the pentameter, is key.
The characters should be delivered as real as possible. The second the audience feels that the actor is 'taking the piss' out of the character he is playing, the illusion is lost. Orton's characters are pompous, evil and fun - but the world they inhabit is real.
When Loot was first performed, Kenneth Williams (a good friend of Orton and Halliwell) played Truscott. His diaries are testament to the pain and embarrassment he suffered on taking on this role. According to his diaries, the play and the director was at fault. Neither was true - Williams was unable to resist playing himself on stage. The second the bubble is pricked, the instant the audience fails to believe in the characters, the spell is broken. Orton has created a world - you have to play by that world's rules and laws.
This is why Loot at SLT worked so well. I have seen numerous Orton's, many professional, many amateur. And the majority fell down because the cast and director played for laughs. You don't play Orton for laughs - you play it for REAL and the text delivers the laughs for you.
From the outset, we knew we were in for a treat. Annie Hayes' nurse, camp enough to be an Orton character, but real enough to draw us into his world, was truly excellent. Her characterisation was flawless, and the way in which she moved around the stage was mesmerising. Such a shame we are losing this talented actor to drama school in September.
Robert Sloan took on the part of Hal with surprising ease. I always think that the ingenue roles in Orton are the most difficult to pull off. But this Hal/Sloan didn't disappoint - his mannerisms, constantly checking his hair, flicking his jacket, readjusting his collar, were perfect. Too much, and you're mugging. Just enough and you're delivering Orton like a pro.
I thought Truscott was the best thing Chris Bennett has done, during the time of my membership. One could tell he was relishing the part but, again, he resisted the urge to mug, delivering a wonderfully menacing but bumbling representative of our Majesty's police force.
Steve John Brown and James Patterson took to the roles with ease, and provided plenty of male hormones to keep the lady happy.
But the biggest surprise, and joy, for me was seeing Tony Emmerson take to the role of Mr MacCleavey like a befuddled duck to water. The line 'everything you have said to me is a complete mystery' had me clutching my sides in pain. Great character acting, or sublime casting? Don't care - it worked for me.
One could see the amount of effort that had gone into this production to make it work. The business with the corpse was extremely well executed - Marsh has obviously run a tight ship.
The set was a little disappointing - it was neither a realistic front room somewhere in surbubia or a stylised representation of lower-middle class living. It looked rather like a few flats with some Catholic pieces to dress it.
The lighting was adequate, and the sound worked well.
Although the piece flagged towards to the end of act one (which felt a little too long towards the end), and for a small part of act two, the quality of the characterisation and directing, coupled with the genius of the script carried us through.
This was an extremely good production and well received by Saturday night's audience. I hope that the cast of Ruffian on the Stair were in attendance and taking notes.
Reminiscences and Anecdotes
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