Entertaining Mr Sloane, London Classic Theatre on tour

playssloaneJOE Orton’s play Entertaining Mr Sloane caused a sensation when it first appeared, incredibly, 50 years ago.

Now the black comedy seems almost gentle, a period piece set firmly in the days of Steptoe and the Kray Brothers, and that’s just how the current London Classic Theatre touring production plays it under the director of Michael Cabot.

Kath and her father Kemp live in a dingy house at the side of a rubbish dump. He’s almost blind and a big ga ga, and she lives in a fantasy world where cupboard doors can open to reveal then-fashionable bits of wallpaper and subtle lighting.

The play starts as a young man comes round, wanting to rent a room. Immediately the 40 year old Kath latches on to sexual possibility, but Kemp has something nasty going on the back of his mind.

When Kath’s brother Ed arrives, he wants the boy to leave, until he too falls under his aggressive testosterone spell.

This production brilliantly captures the “ordinary life” of the sixties, as pop culture exploded “up West” and the upwardly aspirational “working classes” hid their urges under the guise of respectability – and of course, homosexuality was a criminal offence.

The shock has largely gone and the humour is more acceptable, but Orton’s obsessive desire to force people to recognise their own hypocrisy is heavily underlined.

The frightened and unhappy little girl that Kath wants to be is nicely portrayed by Somerset based actress Pauline Whitaker, with Jonathan Ashley as her menacing brother, Nicholas Gasson as the abused and frightened father and Paul Sandys as the versatile lodger.

If you missed the show at Yeovil Octagon this week, it is back in the region at Poole’s Lighthouse from 15th to 17th May.


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