Lighthouse, Poole: Thursday 15th May, 2014
It may be 50 years since Joe Orton’s wonderfully vicious black comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane first shocked, horrified and helped revolutionised mainstream theatre, but the play lives gloriously on. Sadly this is more than can be said for its author who was battered to death by his lover and artistic collaborator Kenneth Halliwell in 1967.
This brave revival by London Classic Theatre reminds us what an extraordinary kick-start this gave to Orton’s brief but mercurial career. It also reminds us what a brilliant writer he was. Entertaining Mr Sloane threw everything Orton had at the still relatively genteel West End. An articulate and adroit observer of life, he used a knowing combination of sit-com and camp seediness to convey a story that laid bare a society hobbled by hypocrisy, homophobia, misogyny, racism and sexual repression. The critics loved it.
This touring production directed by Michael Cabot and designed by Simon Kenny stays utterly true to Orton’s vision. This is life on the scrapheap of humanity…almost literally. We find Kath, middle aged, frustrated, isolated and lonely living a miserable existence with her curmudgeonly father Kemp. Suddenly the strangely enigmatic Mr Sloane walks into their lives and soon nothing will be the same again.
Provocative and sexually ambiguous, Sloane soon has both Kath and her brother, Ed, competing for his favours. But it soon becomes clear that his nonchalance is the mask of a calculating psychopath with a dark and secretive past.
There are particularly fine performances from Pauline Whitaker as Kath, Paul Sandys as Sloane and Jonathan Ashley as Kath’s brother Ed. The other really big star of the show is Simon Kenny’s set - a magical inside out vision of a house on a rubbish tip.
*Entertaining Mr Sloane is at Lighthouse, Poole until Saturday 17 May, Evenings 7.45pm, Saturday matinee 2pm. More information at www.lighthousepoole.co.uk