Joe Orton’s modern classic Loot isn’t for the faint of heart – or stomach, come to think of it; so with this production, Big Teeth theatre company got stuck in with gusto. The battered cardboard coffin, around which so much of this dark farce’s action is based, showed the young company were making the best of what was to hand, but the enthusiasm was infectious.
The play takes place in the front room of a grieving widower (Sean Hutchings as McLeavy) as he awaits the funeral car to bury his wife. His son Hal (Lewis Neil) is hiding the ill-gotten gains of a bank raid with best pal Dennis (Lewis Reading) right under his nose. Fay, the live-in nurse (Alicia Brockenbrow), has designs on becoming the new Mrs McLeavy as soon as possible, and a stranger called Truscott (Joel Whitall) purporting to be from the water board is starting to ask tricky questions…
Finding a place to stash the cash proves ever more difficult and the two bungling criminals end up deposing the dear departed to fill the coffin with the cash; poor old ma ends up stuffed wherever she can fit. It’s a ridiculous and rather unpleasant play (Orton himself had little time for people who found his work distasteful, but still) that sends up religion and corrupt authority figures and continually pushes boundaries. But there is clearly fun to be had by performers taking it on.
Lewis Reading as wide boy Dennis was a natural in the role; where his partner in crime Lewis Neil seemed a bit too sweet to be a hardened criminal, they were a good pairing together. The decision to make Fay more of a burlesque naughty nurse in heels and high glamour made the character somewhat two dimensional and detracted from Alicia Brokenbrow’s competent performance, while Sean Hutchings’s wronged McLeavy was well-pitched as the only sympathetic character in the whole play. Orton’s devilishly fiendish dialogue threw up obstacles at times, but struggling with the text can be a good-natured challenge to make an absurd play all the more amusing; this was particularly true with Joel Whitall as the mysterious Truscott, who provided big laughs unraveling the mystery in the second act.