Review: Entertaining Mr Sloane at Curve, Leicester
A Blast of 1965 Rolling Stones hit (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction signals the start of this Joe Orton play, written one year earlier, illustrated with projected images of icons of the day, writes Lizz Brain.
Among the images – once regularly seen and loved – are those of Jimmy Savile and the Robertson's jam logo.
Orton's play was once considered outrageous and shocking in its exploration of sex and violence. It's funny how perceptions change.
So, can the tale of one manipulative, amoral, possibly psychopathic young man and his relationship with his landlady, her brother and their aged father both convince and appall, 45 years later, or have our own moral codes changed too?
A young man agrees to take on lodgings in a house with a middle-aged yet vampish landlady and her elderly father, to the annoyance of her bullish, self-centred brother.
Tensions increase as the middle-aged Ed and sister Kath compete for possession of the sexually-flexible Mr Sloane, a chameleon with a knack of saying exactly what his admirers want to hear.
Orton deliberately keeps distance from his characters, with not a redeeming feature among them, but it's at the risk of having an audience which doesn't care what happens.
Director Paul Kerryson takes the seedy, grubby tale of four immoral folk, told essentially in one room and builds it to the climactic 30 minutes.
Alex Felton is a wiry, athletic Mr Sloane, whose charms are apparent to both Kath and Ed and with no compunction about exploiting both of them.
Julia Hills and Andrew Dunn are equally loathsome as the siblings, with all three characters abandoning any attempt to show moral fibre as the story unravels.
Only at the very end of the tale, when there is no other option, do they come to a sick kind of compromise.
The cast of four (with John Griffiths as father Kemp) work hard to keep the pace flowing and the tensions high, although sometimes their motives are not clear and some of the humour is lost.
Paul Moore's functional set is sparse, with the action centred on a leather sofa, while Siobhan Boyd's costumes evoke the flavour of the period while not setting the piece directly in it.
But with the graphic sex and violence in the media today, the piece has lost its power to shock.
It's not that the characters aren't depressingly selfish and manipulative, nor that their motives and power games aren't horrifically incomprehensible to anyone with morals, just that homosexuality and women dating younger men are now acceptable.
What emerges is an interesting period piece, but one that feels a bit like a feature-length episode of a TV soap. Unsettling, but not shocking.
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