It is the swinging 1960s and charismatic young Mr. Sloane is looking for a place to live.
Middle-aged Kath offers herself as his landlady but is also offering something else. Her younger brother Ed is also looking for some action with Mr Sloane but their elderly and inquisitive father is unfortunately in the way.
This wickedly funny play established notorious Leicester-born gay playwright Joe Orton as one of the most significant writers of stage farce in the twentieth century. As well as being the darling of 1960s London theatre world, Orton was unashamedly gay and a prolific cruiser (and not on the Cunard Line). Featuring murder, homosexuality and nymphomania, the play shocked the established theatre going crowds when it was first staged in 1964.
Alex Felton is playing the sexy, cocksure and charismatic Mr Sloane. Alex is an up and coming young actor whose stage appearances include The Importance of Being Earnest and The Tempest. His television credits include Bonekickers and Holby City. He also looks pretty good in his vest and pants. I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to the amusing and engaging Alex.
1) Can you tell us a bit about Mr Sloane?
He’s a young man, about 17, who has recently come out of an orphanage. He’s a bit of a chancer, a bit of wide boy, seeing what he can get out of life. He’s certainly worked out, probably in the orphanage, how to use his charm and looks to get what he wants. He’s very charming, knows how to get people to talk and how to push the right buttons. He’s very manipulative and probably by modern day standards a psychopath. He’s fun to play, anyway!
2) Joe Orton’s plays have seen resurgence in popularity recently. Entertaining Mr Sloane was first staged in 1964. Why do you think Orton’s works are still so popular?
When I was 16 I saw a production of “What the Butler Saw” by the Welsh College Drama School in Cardiff where I was living. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen in the theatre. I remember crying with laughter; it was so funny. It was so dark and sexy and really really naughty. I hadn’t led a sheltered life; it just had a lot of shocks and laughs. Looking at this play and the way the characters treat each other, I still think that it’s very shocking. It’s the human behaviour that’s the shocking bit. We’re not shocked by homosexuality and abortion which were illegal when the play was written but by the human interactions. It’s incredibly relevant and reminds me of things like “The League of Gentlemen”. It’s similar to even the most sophisticated comedies which are around now.
3) I always wonder how actors manage not to laugh when I watch Orton’s plays. Is it fun to act in such a naughty and subversive play?
There have been a few moments when we’ve been rehearsing it. I was rehearsing a scene today with Julia Hills, who plays Kath, and she was looking right in my eyes saying these words and I couldn’t control it. I just burst into laughter because it was so ridiculous what she was doing and saying. I don’t think the character would have found it so funny but I just gave way. The good thing is that if I find it so funny then hopefully the audience will feel the same.
4) The internet (amazing thing that it is) comes up with pictures of you looking quite buff in your vest and pants when you Google “Alex Felton” (in a production of Martin Sherman’s Passing By). Is there any pants action scheduled for Mr Sloane?
Definitely, I’ve just been naked today. We took some photos for a video montage at the beginning to place the characters and the history and the setting of 1964. The photographer said “It’d be quite good if you were naked at this point.” It’s good for the character. Sloane uses his body as his card, his weapon. So, there’ll definitely be some kind of action I’m sure.
5) You’re selling the play well for TheGayUK’s readers!
Well, Sloane should be a real gay icon, the stuff of gay fantasy. That’s what Joe Orton wanted. He said as much in his diaries.
6) The pictures are featured on a site where gay men post pictures of their favourite “hot” celebrities. How does it feel to be an object of gay admiration?
I had no idea but it feels fine! I’m nonplussed about it. There’s always stuff about you on the internet. As long as it’s not a bad review then I don’t mind.
7) How are you finding Leicester and working at Curve?
I love it! I absolutely love it. I left drama school about three years ago and have worked in quite a few theatres and Curve is brilliant. The facilities here are amazing. Paul (Kerryson) is a brilliant director which makes such a difference. I’ve not worked in a theatre of this quality since I was at the National when I first left drama school. Everything is here to make you do your work as well as is possible. They have been making some really good work here too. People need to know about Curve. It’s amazing.
This play definitely sounds like one that can’t be missed and it’s definitely well worth a visit to Leicester to catch it.
Alex Felton, Julia Hills (Rona from 2.4 Children), Andrew Dunn (Tony from Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies) and John Griffiths will be starring in Curve’s forthcoming production of Entertaining Mr Sloane. Directed by Paul Kerryson, Joe Orton’s sleek, dark and sexy comedy will be at the Studio from Friday 2 to Saturday 24 November.
For more information, or to book tickets visit www.curveonline.co.uk.
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.