REVIEW: Entertaining Mr Sloane

May 17, 2014


Joe Orton’s play of sex, intrigue and murder amongst the lower middle-class is now fifty years old. Not surprisingly it’s lost some, perhaps most, of its power to shock and is now a respectable classic of English theatre. But of course shock will get you only so far – will its cast of scheming, hypocritical, and manipulative characters still have the same fascination it had in 1964? The Emporium Rep’s production is a decent stab at Sloane but never quite makes the grade.

A young man with a dubious past finds himself lodging in a house built on a rubbish dump presided over by Kath (Bridget Mastrocola), who is a traditional lusty landlady. She lives with her elderly father Kemp (Rory McCallum) who hasn’t spoken to his son Ed (Mike Goodenough) for twenty years after catching him in some unspecified act of immorality – though after Ed hires Sloane to be his chauffeur on the condition the uniform includes leather trousers we can make an educated guess.

Sloane is harder to perform than reading the play would suggest. This production – like many others – can see very good lines simply lost through the timing being a beat out, or getting the rhythm slightly wrong. After her father stabs Sloane with a toasting fork Kath asks ‘Did he attack you? He’s never shown signs before‘ which is a great line with its vaguely surreal suggestion that old people, like dogs, may suddenly turn. But here it doesn’t get a laugh or even raise a smile. Though I also feel that the press night was a bit too early in the run as there were quite a few missed cues and the occasional fluffed line. Hopefully, after a few more performances, it will get the delivery it deserves.

Goodenough is excellent as the repressed East End queer who wouldn’t be out of place amongst the gay hoodlums of Performance. He’s domineering and menacing but also shows a wickedly funny side. The scene where he quizzes Sloane about growing up in an all-boys orphanage with a barely concealed lubriciousness is an absolute joy. Mastrocola gives Kath some depth, making her pitiable as well as a willing exploiter of the young man who she will end up sharing with her brother as if Sloane were the spoils of some domestic war. McCallum makes a wonderfully irascible, crotchety and generally unlovable old man. Unfortunately, I really didn’t get on with Drury’s Sloane. Certainly not a bad performance but it didn’t have nearly the power, the sense of swagger, that the role demands.

If you haven’t seen Sloane before this is a very good introduction; and when it hits its stride it is very funny. If it’s a play you’re familiar with you may end up just a tad disappointed at its missed opportunities.

Continues at the Emporium, London Road, Brighton until June 22.

For more information and tickets click here.