Entertaining Mr Sloane - Theatre Review

(c) Simon Raynor - Richard Galloway and Lisa Stenson

Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane is perhaps one of the most influential and shocking British plays from the Sixties. This production by The Play’s The Thing offers an intriguing evening of theatre, showcasing the naughty nature of Orton’s writing. Following the story of a mysterious young man seeking somewhere to board, the eponymous Mr Sloane (Richard Galloway) gets drawn into the complicated world of his landlady, Kath (Lisa Stenhouse) and her brother Ed (Davin Eadie). As sexual attractions develop on all sides, Mr Sloane’s cosy new life begins to unravel as he tries to play the siblings against one another.

The strength of Orton’s writing can be felt throughout the piece and, when played to its full potential, the piece has the audience laughing knowingly one minute and grimacing through the violence of it all the next. Director Rosemary Hill has clearly delighted in this aspect of the piece, allowing her actors the freedom to revel in every innuendo and tongue in cheek comment. There’s also a knowing sense of decay (moral and physical) that runs through the piece, highlighted by Kevin Jenkins wonderful set design. The house is physically crumbling at its edges, with huge mounds of rubbish outside the window, hung up to dry on a washing line. The Sixties inspired furniture further adds to the tangled quality of Kath and her father, Kemp’s life – a mess of memories, hardship and ill-placed consumerism. Whilst the blocking was a little confused in places, the piece rolls along steadily, exploring theme upon theme. Holding up what Orton perceived as the hypocrisies of the lower-middle class, exploring heterosexual and homosexual desire and the racist and sexist comments of the characters, it’s no surprise how shocking this was in the Sixties.

Richard Galloway is simply electric as the enigmatic Mr Sloane, layering phoney naivety, skilled flirtation and psychopathic tendencies neatly together to create a compelling performance. Galloway switches on a dime from seduction to pure hatred and it is thrilling watching Sloane’s unpredictability unfurl. Lisa Stenhouse is an intriguing Kath, part lonely and broken mother, part intelligent seductress, part immature child. Whilst her delivery was perhaps a little rushed and flat at the beginning of the piece, Stenhouse warmed into the role quickly and revelled in the contradictory parts of her character. Davin Eadie’s Ed was also delivered well, portraying the ‘working class boy done good’ nicely. Eadie and Galloway do a fantastic job with their characters first meeting, all frustrated yearning and leading questions. Colin Jeffery completes the cast as the almost blind father, Kemp, getting lots of laughs in the highly physical role. A solid cast, producing engaging work on the whole.

The pacey three act piece keeps the audience absorbed, and the energy rarely drops. Toying with several significant themes, and adeptly managing Orton’s stylised dialogue this is, indeed, an entertaining evening. Predictably, The Play’s The Thing continue to show what they are exceptionally good at – producing high-quality productions of relevant and influential classic plays. Where else in this area do we get to see such important plays delivered so adeptly? Definitely one to catch whilst you can.

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