LOOT

by Joe Orton.

Director: Paddy Darnell-Walsh

Blackburn Drama Club (BDC)

 

Loot was the first play of BDC’s ‘Season of Comedy’, an inspired idea after the past eighteen months, as our audience need a good laugh – and that is most definitely what they got!

 

Joe Orton’s Black Comedy ‘Loot’ was written in 1964 and follows the tale of Hal and Dennis – two imperfect criminals who rob a bank. The plot unfolds as Hal and Dennis attempt to hide the stolen loot in Hal’s late mother Mrs McLeavy’s coffin. Her dead body is then moved around and stashed in various positions as the chaos unfolds.  The themes in the play would have been considered quite shocking and taboo at the time, religion, corruption, murder, theft but – it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

 

The set was simple, but also quite surrealist in style.  It was monochrome with hanging frames ‘floating’ to represent the pictures and the overall result was a stylish and effective set but unrealistic, which mirrored the play itself.  It made a nice change from a box set.   As the performance begin, I initially felt that it was a little slow to get going – however I was soon to realise it was in fact the audience who were slow to get going!  The style of humour is dark and satirical and does take a while to settle into.

 

If this play was done wrong, it could have been awful, but the team of seven comedy actors worked seamlessly together, with tight, slick and engaging performances.  It was clear that there had been meticulous rehearsal process, with a hard-working cast and creatively minded director with fantastic attention to detail.  The comedy in the play was executed with precision and there was not a weak link in sight.

 

Claire St Pierre played the seductress nurse Fay with energy and sparkle.  She also maintained a very tricky Irish accent throughout the performance.  Andrew Smith played a straighter part, but he added to the humour, and he played his part with confidence and generosity.  Martin Cottam’s cameo as Meadows was also performed with great physical acting and hilarious expressions.

 

Will Gedling and Ryan Coe played the unlucky criminals Hal and Dennis.  I thought the two of them worked brilliantly together and really bounced off each other. Will’s childlike naivety was portrayed with expertise and Ryan’s facial expressions had me in stitches.

 

Steven Derbyshire played an animated and memorable part as Truscott and he really carried the energy of his character throughout every part of his body from his toes to his fingertips. What a skilled comedy actor, I was so impressed.

 

Suzanne Nolan deserves an award category of her own for her part as Mrs McLeavy’s dead body!  Her performance could be considered as an ‘easy part’ to the unexperienced eye as she has no lines or facial expressions, but this part took unbelievable stamina and focus to play a comedy part using just her deadweight body.  Her physicality and timing were bang on for every single movement – I don’t think she even took a breath!  The fact that the character was a real person and not a dummy as the script initially required, really added to the humour of the play.

 

Some stand out moments were when the audience first realised that there was a real ‘body’ in the coffin and the corpse under the bed scene.  I also thought the use of the screens was genius and thought Fay’s scene with the ‘body’ and the use of shadows was really effective (and reminiscent of Austin Powers!)

 

I absolutely loved the audiences’ reactions to the performance as the chaos ensued and this really added to the atmosphere in the theatre.  The audiences groans of dismay when Hal said ‘Kingdom Come’ and the shouts of “Oh, no!” as he seedily looks at his mother’s knickers before giving them a good sniff, or when he started to play the maracas with her false teeth. Just hilarious!  You can’t wish for much more than your audience audibly cringing! There were parts of the play where the audience was struggling to keep its laughter under wraps, with ripples of laughter and snorting throughout!  We were not even shocked by the time we started to hear about Hal’s dream of an inclusive brothel with midgets, Catholics and protestants.

This is a play that is very tongue in cheek and in turn the actors had the freedom to have fun with the script and this enjoyment really shone through their performances.

 

Ultimately, the audience had a great laugh, with plenty of silly, laugh-out-loud slapstick moments, not to mention a lot of phallic twittering!