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Brisbane review- Loot: a very funny dark farce

 By David Wilson



By Joe Orton

Directed by Jennifer Flowers

Brought to you by Ad Astra

April 5 – 27 Tickets starting at $35

Ad Astra Theatre57 Misterton Street, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006


Loot is the most famous of the farces of Joe Orton and was written in 1966 at the height of the Swinging Sixties. Orton's main objective was to blow apart societal shibboleths by exposing the hypocrisies and corruption of contemporary Britain. Based around an imminent funeral, an audacious bank robbery, a predatory nurse and a bent policeman, Loot challenges the Roman Catholic Church, social attitudes to death, the integrity of institutional authority and also comments on sexuality and racism. It is little wonder that the 1960’s establishment was outraged and the original was banned, having drawn the attention of Lord Chamberlain.

The Ad Astra creative team has done a fabulous job with Loot. Not only is it an excellent choice given its continued relevance, but it also works extremely well in the charming Ad Astra venue. The intimate venue perfectly accommodated the ‘one-room’ play, highlighting the pace of the play, with the audience proximity really emphasising the underlying physicality .

Jennifer Flowers’ direction was evident and outstanding. She never allowed the play’s heightened naturalism to escalate into melodrama or to descend and fall flat. Not an easy task with a play that bounces between the ordinary and the outrageous at such pace, but handled expertly by Flowers and her exceptional cast, all of whom were excellent.

Iain Gardiner was outstanding as Mr McLeavy, the law abiding, authority respecting, staunch Roman Catholic, grieving his recently deceased wife. The vast range required of Gardiner in his portrayal would have challenged a lesser performer, and his accent work was exceptional.

Fiona Kennedy made a fantastic Fay, the much-married nurse hired by Mr McLeavy to help his wife back to health before her untimely death. Kennedy’s slick, almost glib delivery of some of the plays most telling lines were perfectly executed, ensuring that the hectic pace of the play did not distract the audience from the gravity of the dialogue. The evolving interplay between the grieving Gardiner and the conniving Kennedy was a highlight.

Steven Grives was brilliant as Truscott, perfectly embodying misplaced and untrustworthy authority. His timing was remarkable, particularly when shifting at pace between the ordinary and the absurd. His performance was both commanding and threatening, making great use of his magnificent stage presence.

Lisa Hickey played the deceased Mrs McLeavy, and while one could be forgiven for thinking that a role as a corpse with no lines presents no opportunity for the actor to make the character their own, Hickey proves otherwise. Much of the play’s physicality revolves around the disrespect shown to poor deceased Mrs McLeavy, comically well done for full impact by Hickey.

Jett Robson did an excellent job as Hal, rogue son of Mr and Mrs McLeavy. Robson leant into the unsavoury aspects of his character well, and was particularly engaging in his dealings with the corpse.

Liam Hartley was nuanced in his portrayal of Dennis, undertaker, bank robber and part-time lover of both Hal and Fay. I particularly enjoyed the range of his vocal performance, shifting expertly according to his task at hand.

And finally James Enwright performed well the small but important role of Meadows, a character that further emphasises the ineptitude of the police force.

Almost 60 years later, Loot retains its ability to shock, remaining surprisingly relevant and achieving much more than merely capturing the mood of the time.

I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful production of a very funny dark farce and I encourage you to see it.

















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