Review: Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Curve studio, Leicester
A half-blind old man can be beaten to a pulp in his own living room; a lodger can help himself to what's in the kitchen as long as he satisfies his landlady as well.
Then her brother can take a shine to him too . . . welcome to the strange world of Joe Orton.
Three years before the celebrated Leicester playwright's murder in 1967, Orton gave us Entertaining Mr Sloane, a black comedy buzzing with themes including hypocrisy, love or lust and what it means to be free in a post-war new Britain.
It had the chattering classes of its day choking on their cornflakes and, nearly 50 years later, the shock factor of seeing middle-aged Kath unzipping Sloane and having her way with him is as strong as ever.
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'You should wear more clothes, Mr Sloane,' she tells him. Yeah, right.
Paul Kerryson's production at the Curve is an absolute delight from the moment the back wall of Kath's flat is utilised as a film screen.
Here, black and white stills of Britain in the sixties are interspersed with grainy footage of the characters in a nod to the opening credits of popular films of the day.
But effects alone do not make a play, and this is as funny as anything you're likely to see in a long time.
Julia Hills, she of 2 Point 4 Children off the telly, deserves 9.5 for her Kath.
With her eye on Sloane – ably played by Alex Felton – she is painfully funny one minute and then breaks your heart the next.
Will Sloane really love her the way she hopes, or is everything too blurred from the baby she was forced to give away?
Ed, the brother who controls her, is cleverly sketched by Andrew Dunn.
Their father Kemp (John Griffiths in brilliant form) is the victim of the opportunists around him.
His eyesight may be failing but he recognises this newcomer Sloane, setting up a comic arrangement that steadily shifts into a dark, unsettling finale.
Entertaining Mr Sloane is at the Curve studio, Leicester, until November 24.