It's a very special year for the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary. And as part of their celebrations Joe Orton's seminal Loot takes up residence, bringing mischievous deeds and dark thoughts to the tranquil surroundings of the theatre.
The play revolves around Hal on the day of his mother’s funeral, which is also the morning after he has pulled off a daring bank robbery with his mate Dennis. The two events collide as a suspicious father, a psychopathic detective and a domineering nurse are all thrown into the mix.
Loot is played at the heightened level that a farce requires, by a committed cast. The show's run at the Park Theatre in
There are elements of the play that seem delightfully quaint. Maybe I was too cynical a viewer, but little here shocked, with more offering a recognisable twinge, which led to laughter, rather then earning a gasp of outrage. Times have changed since the play was first performed in 1965; theatre has been freed from the constraints of the Lord Chamberlain and is far more willing to explore areas that will offend. And yet Loot manages to cut through when it focuses on the generational disparity between Hal and his father. Maybe this is something more keenly felt today but the contrast between a father who believes in the institutes of law and order, and the son who lacks respect for seemingly everything was what left an impression for me.
The design work is outstanding, managing to be both a period piece in terms of the costumes and props but also to emulate the exaggerated qualities of the farce it packages. There is great work from Gabriella Slade (set & costume), Elliot Griggs (lighting) and Max Pappenheim (sound). And the production is held together thanks to the astute direction of Michael Fentiman, who shapes an anniversary production fit for a theatre celebrating its 50th.
This is a very good revival of a fascinating slice of mid-20th century British theatre. The Watermill seems the perfect venue for this farce, its quaint exterior allowing for a production that will amuse far more then it will shock. Still, Loot is a thoroughly enjoyable night at the theatre.