The Rep serves up a lively piece of theatre with Joe Orton’s play “Loot”. Its relentless dark humour hits just the same spot as it did more than half a century ago. Director AJ Bartley guides his well chosen cast with a deft touch in order for us to come to grips with Orton’s outlandish story and the oddly compelling characters who inhabit it. There has been a robbery in the bank next to the funeral home. The wall between has been breached and a large amount of money taken. Several days later the recently deceased and embalmed Mrs McLeavey lies in a coffin in her parlour and is about to taken to her final resting place by the aforementioned funeral business.
Her husband, McLeavey, is seen to be grieving and being consoled by his wife’s nurse Fay. Malcolm Walton’s interpretation of McLeavey is both consistent and intelligent and, I thought, one of the standout performances in this production. He invests his character with a degree of sincerity that sets him apart from his son Hal. Mrs McLeavey’s nurse Fay (Kyla Booth) has a colourful marital history and has been “made” a sudden widow on numerous occasions. Kyla plays her well as a devious, smart, conniving and completely amoral creature seeking her next target. Whilst being totally opportunistic, Fay has the audacity to exhibit the occasional facade of moral superiority but once she strikes a deal with Hal and is promised a share of the loot that pretence disappears.
The McLeavey’s son Hal, unlike his father, shows no sign of either bereavement or remorse over his Mother’s death. He has a petty criminal past and, along with his friend Dennis, has masterminded the bank heist and snatched the loot. Matthew Chapman invests Hal with a totally amoral nonconformity although there is the odd dichotomy of Hal’s truth telling, due he says, to his Catholic upbringing. Matthew delivers his dialogue and its humour well with clear diction and purpose. His friend Dennis, we learn, is the father of five, each to a different woman. He fancies nurse Fay but she dismisses his approaches with mild disdain. There is loot to be had! George Jankovic lends a consistent approach to his character (Dennis). On the one hand he needs to demonstrate efficiency and urgency as the funeral parlour employee, whilst on the other he is a complicit criminal in cahoots with Hal.
Inspector Truscott (Simon Lancione) is the external threat to the success of the dark and devious dealings happening in the not so grieving McLeavey household. Announcing himself as an inspector from the Water Board (hence needing no search warrant) he proceeds to strut his venal stuff across the stage. Simon’s performance, which is sound and, at times, commanding, makes it clear that Truscott’s motives are not in keeping with our conventional notions of a public official. Truscott is an intrusive menace. He won’t go away until he gets what he wants.
Set design by Kate Anolak is redolent of the era and allows the effective movement (and placement) of both body and coffin throughout. There were a few opening night glitches resulting in hesitancy because of lines not on cue or an entry not quite slick enough but I am sure that a confident and consistent delivery will rapidly improve as the season progresses. The script is outlandishly funny and seethes with comic opportunity. I particularly liked the “stupid” exchange between Truscott, Fay and Hal. It is timed well. The successful presentation of the play is reliant on its pace and rhythm and the cast succeeds pretty well in this regard.
As an ensemble piece with sound direction of an evenly talented cast the Rep’s production of “Loot” is a success. Maybe our views on such sacred cows of society, like religion and legal authority in its various forms, have changed since this play was written. Maybe not. Maybe our emphases have merely shifted. In any event we still enjoy seeing conventional attitudes to life’s serious stuff pricked and occasionally turned on its head. “Loot” is still great fun and I urge you to see this worthy dark farce from the Adelaide Repertory Theatre.