Loot by Joe Orton. ARTS Theatre Company directed by Adam Maher at ANU Arts Centre DramaLab Studio, June 17 – 25, 2005.
Loot is a hoot, with mystery, satire and police corruption to boot. And a real dead body. Kerrie Roberts as the ex-Mrs McLeavy deserves the best of applause for her lifeless flexibility flat out in her coffin, upside down in what was once her wardrobe, strapped up as a taylor's dummy, dragged off stage by her feet, stripped down - so we believe - thankfully behind a screen, re-dressed and returned to her coffin, to the immortal retort that Mr McLeavy had no justifable complaint about this treatment since she began the day dead and was just as dead at the end.
Living actors came off almost second-best in the face of such competition, but Lucy Goleby as the murdering nurse Fay and Steven Kennedy as Truscott, the most devious detective in the corruption business, stood out as exponents of the Orton style. British farce has a long history, but Orton invented black farce which twists and turns until logic takes bizarre directions. Especially neat is McLeavy's gormless son Hal (Michael Beard), the bank robber's off-sider, who always tells the truth and is therefore believed to be lying, ironically by the protector of the law, Truscott, who nevers tells the truth. The art lies in creating an impossible storyline which has its own line of logic, drawing us in to suspending our disbelief.
Adam Maher's direction keeps up a cracking pace, sometimes a little too fast and tight for the DramaLab's bouncing acoustics, at least in the upper half of the seating. But, jokes aside, this production works very well because all the visuals are right and the timing of the action is excellent.
The program is well worth the cost for the background to the play and the author. Laughing at Orton's theatre takes a turn for the worse when one is reminded of his awful death, only the year after this play was written, murdered by his partner Kenneth Halliwell because he was jealous of Joe's success. Black farce indeed.
ARTS Theatre continues to produce theatre with a purpose, stylish without pretension, and therefore worth seeing.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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