★★★★ | Loot

THEATRE REVIEW | Loot, Park Theatre, London

The late playwright Joe Orton wrote Loot more than 50 years ago, and it is now being revived at London’s Park Theatre in Finsbury Park.

Loot is a farcical comedy that’s hilarious but it’s upstaged a bit by the life of Orton. He was only 34 when, at the peak of his fame, he was murdered by his boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell in their flat in Islington exactly 50 years ago because Halliwell was very jealous of Orton’s success. Orton had just had real success in the West End with both Loot and Entertaining Mr Sloane, and was even celebrating being notorious for when he and Halliwell served six months in jail for defacing books from the Islington public library.

But back to Loot,  it’s a laugh a minute play about a funeral with a corpse which unfortunately does not get any peace in the afterlife. There’s also a bank robbery as well as a cunning nurse who will do anything to get her hands on as much money as she can.

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Mrs McLeavy (Anah Ruddin) has just died and her husband McLeavy (Ian Redford) and son Hal (Sam Frenchum) are in mourning at a funeral home. Nurse Fay (Sinéam Matthews) was hired to take care of Mrs McLeavy, but she’s got more up her sleeve than cotton pads and plasters. But Hal has just robbed a bank, in cahoots (and then some) with undertaker Dennis (Calvin Demba), and the money is in the same room as Mrs McLeavy. But self-proclaimed water inspector Truscott (Christopher Fulford) seems to be getting very interested in everyone’s business, starts to ask lots and lots of questions, while Hal and Dennis run amok trying to figure out where to stash the stolen money – and this is the beauty of Loot. Poor Mrs McLeavy’s corpse keeps on getting switched with the money and eventually her body is a prop where McLeavy and Truscott bewilderingly take no notice. And eventually Fay wants a piece of the action or else she will tell the cops. The corpse winds up in literally many hilarious places and positions which will keep you laughing for the duration of the show’s 90 plus minutes.

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Kudos go to Ruddin for playing the corpse. She, along with the hilarious script, are the real stars of the show. Matthews as nurse Fay and Redford as McLeavy are also brilliant but it’s a testament to Orton who had bucketfuls of talent taken away from him at such a young age, one can only imagine what else he would’ve accomplished. And we’re lucky we are no longer at the behest of Lord Chamberlain who heavily censored this show when it was originally shown, and when some of the audiences walked out because of the way the corpse is treated in the show. And we finally get to see Loot the way Orton originally intended it to be watched, in full.

Loot play at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park until 24th September