Infamous for receiving the wrath of the Lord Chamberlain’s censorship when the show first opened in 1965 but later going on to enjoy large success, and even a film in 1970, Loot has its own fair share of off stage drama. This revival at the Park Theatre offers the first chance to see the original uncut version. Although this is a decent approach in reviving the black comedy, it struggles to pull its shocking immoral material off.
The production commemorates 50 years of the playwright’s death: Joe Orton was tragically murdered by his partner at the age of 34. This version of the play features corpses, homosexuality and corrupt policemen, each unpermitted in the original work. It centres on the funeral of Mrs McLeavy, played by Anah Ruddin, who really is the star of the show, as well as the victim of a recent bank robbery. When the two lads who have committed the crime are left struggling to find a suitable place to hide the stolen money, McLeavy’s coffin seems like a safe option.
This revival of Orton’s classic black comedy and contains many moments of full-on belly laughter at the sheer ludicrousness taking place on stage, as well as the superbly written witty one liners; ‘The Ten Commandments, she was a great believer in some of them’. However, there are even more moments of nervous laughter where you feel you should be laughing, rather than actually finding the material amusing. The humour sometimes has the tendency to feel out of touch today and borders on feeling dated. The original censored sections of the play seem to stand out like a sore thumb and disrupt the flow of the play, which is most clearly seen in the implied homosexuality.
Though not censored from the original text, throughout the play Hal repeatedly refers to Dennis as “baby” which sounds so awkward and out of place for his dialect when there’s no apparent reason for him to be saying such. The two are shown primarily as friends and so when they start kissing out of nowhere it is unconvincing and unmotivated. As the relationship between the men is underwritten in the play, you can’t help but feel that perhaps the censored version works better. When this is combined with distracting random interjections of droning music at certain parts of this production, it starts to feel incoherent and disorientated.
This is a solid revival and a rare chance to see the original uncensored script Orton created, it mainly accomplishes what it sets out to do, but leaves you asking ‘what was the point?’