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Watermill Theatre

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01635 46044. www.watermill.org.uk

The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Newbury, RG20 8AE. A map is here. A seating plan is here.
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Reviews of Loot

28th September to 21st October 2017

Review from Newbury Theatre.

Loot was first performed in 1965 after a long correspondence with the Lord Chamberlain’s office who at that time had to give approval for all plays to be performed and could mandate changes and cuts. This resulted in a watered down version of Joe Orton’s original script, but it’s the uncut version that we can now see at the Watermill.

Director Michael Fentiman says that Orton “doesn’t present a farce in its traditional sense”; to me it was definitely a farce but with a lot more to it in the pointed and witty script than a Ray Cooney farce has (interesting that the programme thanks Ray Cooney among many others).

Mr McLeavy’s wife has recently died and her coffin is laid in the front room of their house. Fay, a nurse and serial husband killer, has been looking after her. Their son Hal and his lover Dennis have been involved in a bank robbery and the loot is stashed in a locked cupboard behind the coffin. The arrival of Inspector Truscott, posing as a Water Board employee, causes much swapping around of the body and the money…

The themes touch on the Catholic Church, police corruption, homosexuality, the monarchy and respect for the dead. The original London production was highly praised but many people were shocked and upset by it. Times have changed, and the uncensored version hardly shocks, allowing the audience to enjoy the black humour and manic action.

Christopher Fulford as Truscott is a psychotic maniac. This full-on performance is breathtaking to watch, especially in his interactions with McLeavy (Ian Redford). Sinéad Matthews as Fay is a tough, single-minded gold digger. Sam Frenchum and Calvin Demba as Dennis are suitably bemused and scared as things spiral out of control. The cast rattle through the script at machine-gun speed (and at a volume more suited to a bigger auditorium).

Not speaking but doing some amazing contortions as Mrs McLeavy, as well as being stripped naked, Anah Ruddin was the most supple dead body I’ve ever seen on a stage. In the original version, the Lord Chamberlain’s office were most concerned about the body, requiring that it be a dummy, fully clothed at all times in view of the audience and dressed in a WVS uniform!

This play is clever, funny and witty, and still relevant despite liberalisation over the past 50 years. I laughed a lot – so will you.

PAUL SHAVE

Review from the British Theatre Guide.

It’s over fifty years since Joe Orton’s daring black comedy Loot was first performed in London and shocked some of the audiences, many leaving before the end, with its irreverent portrayal of the Catholic Church, the treatment of the dead, the corrupt police and homosexuality.

It is also the anniversary of his death, when he was bludgeoned to death by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell. The two had a tempestuous life spending some time in gaol for defacing library books and Halliwell becoming more jealous of Orton’s growing success. He won The Evening Standard’s Best Play Award in 1965.

In the Watermill Theatre’s impressive production, strikingly directed by Michael Fentiman, this cynical, rollicking farce still manages to shock as well as provide much hilarity.

It is set in Mr McLeavy’s house on an imposing, funereal, black set designed by Gabriella Slade with stained glass windows and gold crosses and an ominous cupboard.

Centre-stage is a coffin with the body of late Mrs McLeavy (Anah Ruddin) awaiting her interment. The distraught, grieving husband, splendidly played by Ian Redford, is being comforted by Mrs McLeavy’s nurse McMahon.

Sinéad Matthews gives a wonderful performance as the feisty nurse Fay, who has been married seven times with all of her husbands dying under suspicious circumstances.

She has already helped herself to the late Mrs McLeavy’s slippers, jewels and clothes and has a plan to make Mr McLeavy her next husband. She tells him, “you’ve been a widower for three days have you thought about a second marriage?”

The plot becomes more complicated when McLeavy’s wayward son Hal (Sam Frencham) and his boyfriend Dennis (Calvin Demba) who works in the next door funeral parlour and is responsible for the remains of Mrs McLeavy need to find a hiding place for the money they have stolen in a bank robbery, but where to put it?

It starts off in the cupboard and is then hidden in the coffin, but that means moving the body in a tremendous piece of slapstick comedy and all credit to Ruddin for being so roughly manhandled.

With the arrival of police detective Truscott disguised as a Metropolitan Water Board official, the whole situation becomes totally bizarre.

Christopher Fulford is outstanding as the sadistic inspector determined to solve the mystery, especially when he finds a glass eye and viciously interrogates Hal. He is unscrupulous and as he says, “policemen, like red squirrels, need to be protected.” He is ably assisted by Raphael Bar as Mathews.

He becomes more embroiled in the madcap situation and eventually agrees to take a cut of the loot revealing, “we have a saying under the blue lamp: ‘waste time on the truth and you’ll be pounding the beat until the day you retire’.”

Orton’s play is as relevant today as when it was first written and some of the original lines censored by the Lord Chamberlain have been reinstated including references to a Pakistani brothel and corrupt police that ring true.

It’s all tremendous fun and this is a production not to be missed.

ROBIN STRAPP

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Orton uncut

Joe Orton's play Loot, originally censored for immorality more than 50 years ago, is staged in The Watermill's anniversary year. A darkly comic masterpiece, this classic farce shocked and delighted audiences in equal measure when the play premiered, winning the Evening Standard Best Play award.

Loot, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until Saturday, October 21

Joe Orton's play Loot, originally censored for immorality more than 50 years ago, is staged in The Watermill's anniversary year. A darkly comic masterpiece, this classic farce shocked and delighted audiences in equal measure when the play premiered, winning the Evening Standard Best Play award.

Playing a corpse usually means no lines to learn and needs little aptitude except to be able to lie still.

Not so for Anah Ruddin, playing deceased Mrs McLeavy in Joe Orton's dark comedy, for presumably the audition included having the ability to stand on her head and put up with being lugged around the stage as well as having her clothes stripped off.

Her 'home' is a coffin resting on a bed. Funeral flowers spell out 'Mum'. That is all, apart from a chair into which various characters sink when overcome.

In writing Loot, Orton was out to shock, to have a mocking, contemptuous laugh at our attitude to what we regard as sacred cows, death, religion – and the implacable honour of the detective in charge.

This production, directed by Michael Feniiman, restores all the cuts which the Lord Chancellor insisted were made 50 years ago. Although people today may not be as scandalised as were their counterparts in the 60s, some may find it difficult to take. It is the kind of shocking which occasionally makes you laugh with an intake of breath.

The reason for ex-Mrs McLeavy's travels about the stage are that a load of cash, stolen by her son Hal (Sam Frenchum) and his undertaker chum Dennis (Calvin Demba), has to be stored somewhere and where better than a coffin about to be interred? Their relationship is open to question.

We meet 'grieving' widower Mr McLeavy (Ian Redford) and his wife's nurse Fay (Sinead Matthews), an Irish Catholic Barbara Windsor lookalike who has had seven husbands in as many years, all dying in suspicious circumstances. Like everyone in this excellent cast, she has a superb way with the many hilarious one-liners – she remarks when Mrs McLeavy and the 10 commandments are mentioned that "she was a great believer in some of them".

The coffin and widower set off, but an accident occurs and they return, complete with McLeavy covered in blood, having been bitten by an Afghan hound.

Masquerading as a Water Board official, Truscott (Christopher Fulford) of the force attempts with ever-increasing sound volume to sort out who, if anyone, is guilt-free. He is finally aided by the discovery of a false eye which has abandoned its owner, Mrs Mcleavy, during one of the 'bundling in the cupboard' sessions.

Bizarre? Certainly. Shocking? Some may find it so. Entertaining and funny? Absolutely.

CAROLINE FRANKLIN

There's an interesting article...

... by Tei Williams about the process in staging a Watermill production, from choosing the play through to the opening night. It's here.

Reviews in the Archive

The Picture of Dorian Gray (September 2017 and on tour)
A Little Night Music (July 2017)
All at Sea! (July 2017)
The Miller's Child (July 2017)
Nesting (July 2017 and on tour)
House and Garden (May 2017)
Twelfth Night (April 2017)
Faust x2 (March 2017)
Murder For Two (January 2017)
Sleeping Beauty (November 2016)
Frankenstein (October 2016)
The Wipers Times (September 2016)
Crazy For You (July 2016)
Watership Down (June 2016)
Untold Stories (May 2016)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (April 2016 and on tour)
Romeo and Juliet (February 2016)
Tell Me on a Sunday (January 2016)
Alice in Wonderland (November 2015)
Gormenghast (November 2015) - see the Youth page
The Ladykillers (September 2015)
Oliver! (July 2015)
A Little History of the World (July 2015 and on tour)
Between the Lines (July 2015)
The Deep Blue Sea (June 2015)
Far From the Madding Crowd (April 2015)
Tuxedo Junction (March 2015)
The Secret Adversary (February 2015)
Peter Pan (November 2014)
But First This (October 2014)
Twelfth Night (November 2014) - see the Youth page
Journey's End (September 2014)
Calamity Jane (July 2014)
The Boxford Masques - Joe Soap's Masquerade (July 2014)
Hardboiled - the Fall of Sam Shadow (July 2014)
A Bunch of Amateurs (May 2014)
Sense and Sensibility (April 2014)
Life Lessons (March 2014)
All My Sons (February 2014)
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (January 2014)
Pinocchio (November 2013)
Sherlock's Last Case (September 2013)
Romeo+Juliet (September 2013 and on tour)
The Witches of Eastwick (July 2013)
Laurel & Hardy (June 2013)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (May 2013)
The Miser (April 2013)
David Copperfield (March 2013)
Sleuth (February 2013)
Arabian Nights (November 2012)
The Tempest (September 2012)
Thoroughly Modern Millie (August 2012)
Boxford Masques (July 2012)
Ben Hur (June 2012)
Of Mice and Men (May 2012)
Love on the Tracks (April 2012 and on tour)
Henry V and The Winter's Tale (April 2012)
Lettice and Lovage (February 2012)
The Wind in the Willows (November 2011)
Some Like It Hotter (November 2011 and on tour)
Great Expectations (September 2011)
Radio Times (August 2011)
The Marriage of Figaro (July 2011)
Moonlight and Magnolias (May 2011)
Richard III and The Comedy of Errors (April 2011)
The Clodly Light Opera and Drama Society (March 2011)
Relatively Speaking (February 2011)
Treasure Island (November 2010)
Single Spies (September 2010)
Copacabana (July 2010)
Daisy Pulls It Off (June 2010)
Brontë (April 2010)
Raising Voices (March 2010)
Confused Love (March 2010)
Heroes (February 2010)
James and the Giant Peach (November 2009)
Educating Rita (October 2009)
Spend Spend Spend! (July 2009 and September 2010)
Blithe Spirit (May 2009)
Bubbles (April to May and September to October 2009)
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice (March 2009)
Life X 3 (January 2009)
Matilda and Duffy's Stupendous Space Adventure (November 2008)
The Sirens' Call (November 2008)
Our Country's Good (September 2008)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of The Recruiting Officer (October 2008)
Sunset Boulevard (July 2008)
Boxford Masques - Knight and Day (July 2008)
Black Comedy and The Bowmans (May 2008)
London Assurance (April 2008)
Micky Salberg's Crystal Ballroom Dance Band (April 2008 and on tour)
Great West Road (March 2008)
Merrily We Roll Along (March 2008)
Honk! (November 2007)
Rope (September 2007)
Martin Guerre (July 2007)
Twelfth Night (June 2007)
The Story of a Great Lady (April and September 2007, and on tour)
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (April 2007)
For Services Rendered (March 2007)
Plunder (January 2007)
The Snow Queen (November 2006)
Peter Pan in Scarlet (October 2006)
The Taming of the Shrew (September 2006 and on tour in 2007)
Hot Mikado (July 2006 and September 2009)
Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year (July 2006)
Hobson's Choice (May 2006)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (April 2006)
Tartuffe (February 2006)
The Jungle Book (November 2005)
The Gilded Lilies (October 2005)
Copenhagen (September 2005)
The Garden of Llangoed (September 2005 and September 2006)
Thieves' Carnival (July 2005)
The Shed (July 2005)
Mack and Mabel (May 2005)
The Odyssey (May 2005)
Broken Glass (April 2005)
The Winter's Tale (January 2005)
Arabian Nights (December 2004)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Whose Life is it Anyway? (November 2004)
Multiplex (November 2004)
Neville's Island (September 2004)
The Comedian (September 2004 and March 2005)
Raising Voices Again (September 2004)
Pinafore Swing (July 2004)
The Venetian Twins (May 2004)
The Gentleman from Olmedo (April 2004)
Mr & Mrs Schultz (March 2004 and on tour)
Sweeney Todd (February 2004)
The Emperor and the Nightingale (November 2003)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of An Ideal Husband (November 2003)
A Star Danced (September 2003)
The Fourth Fold (September 2003)
The Last Days of the Empire (July 2003)
Accelerate (July 2003)
Dreams from a Summer House (May 2003)
The Triumph of Love (April 2003)
Gigolo (March 2003)
Raising Voices (March 2003)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 2003)
The Firebird (November 2002)
Ten Cents a Dance (September 2002)
Dancing at Lughnasa (July 2002)
Love in a Maze (June 2002)
Fiddler on the Roof (April 2002)
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (March 2002 and March 2006)
Only a Matter of Time (February 2002)
Cinderella and the Enchanted Slipper (November 2001)
Piaf (October 2001)
The Merchant of Venice (October 2001)
Witch (September 2001)
The Clandestine Marriage (August 2001)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2001)
Gondoliers (March 2001)
Rose Rage (February 2001)
Carmen (July 2000)