Front cover of programme for the
1992 production at the Lyric Hammersmith
|Written by||Joe Orton|
|Characters||McLeavy, Fay, Hal, Dennis, Truscott, Meadows|
|Date premiered||1 February 1965|
|Place premiered||Cambridge, England|
Loot was Orton's third major production, following Entertaining Mr Sloane and the television play The Good and Faithful Servant. Playing with the conventions of popular farce, Orton creates a hectic world and examines English attitudes and perceptions in the mid twentieth century. The play won several awards in its London run and has had many revivals.
Loot follows the fortunes of two young thieves, Hal and Dennis. Together they rob the bank next to the funeral parlour where Dennis works and return to Hal's home to hide the money. Hal's mother has just died and the money is hidden in her coffin while her body keeps on appearing around the house. Upon the arrival of Inspector Truscott, the plot becomes bizarre as Hal and Dennis try to keep him off their trail, aided by Nurse McMahon and to the despair of Hal's father, Mr. McLeavy. The play satirises the rituals of bereavement, and the mismatch between nominal standards of behaviour - religious and secular - and people's actual conduct. The police, as represented by Inspector Truscott, are depicted as venal and corrupt.
As is typical of Orton's writing the humour of the dialogue arises from the contrast between the shocking and bizarre elements that punctuate what the characters say and the mechanically genteel utterance that predominates in their speech.
Orton completed a first draft in October 1964, which premiered in Cambridge on 1 February 1965. The production starred Geraldine McEwan, Kenneth Williams, Duncan Macrae and Ian McShane and was directed by Peter Wood.
Responses to the first production were extremely mixed, with many in the audience outraged, as Orton had intended, but largely negative reviews also affected the box office. The London Evening News called it "one of the most revolting things I've ever seen." The first run ended at Wimbledon on 20 March 1965 with the play considered a flop due to its problems with repeated script rewrites, uneven direction, a stylish but unsympathetic set, and what many considered the miscasting of Williams.
Loot was successfully revived the following year, however, at the Jeanette Cochrane Theatre in Holborn. It opened on 27 September 1966 with Gerry Duggan as McLeavy, Sheila Ballantine as Fay, Kenneth Cranham as Hal, Simon Ward as Dennis, and Michael Bates as Inspector Truscott. It was directed by Charles Marowitz and designed by Tony Carruthers. The production transferred to the Criterion Theatre in November 1966.
The play had its first Broadway production in New York at the Biltmore Theatre. It opened on 18 March 1968.Kenneth Cranham played Hal (as he had in the 1966 London production), James Hunter played Dennis, Liam Redmond played McLeavy, Carole Shelley played Fay, George Rose played Truscott, and Norman Barrs played Meadows. It was directed by Derek Goldby and designed by William Ritmann. The play was profiled in the William Goldman book The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway.
Albert Finney directed a production at the Royal Court Theatre as part of its Joe Orton Festival. This production opened on 3 June 1975.Arthur O'Sullivan played McLeavy, Jill Bennett played Fay, David Troughton played Hal, James Aubrey played Dennis, Philip Stone played Truscott, and Michael O'Hagan played Meadows. It was designed by Douglas Heap, with costumes by Harriet Geddes.
The play was staged at the Manhattan Theatre Club in a production directed by John Tillinger. It opened on 18 February 1986.Kevin Bacon played Dennis, ?eljko Ivanek played Hal, Zoë Wanamaker played Fay, Charles Keating played McLeavy, Joseph Maher played Truscott (winning a Drama Desk Award for his performance), and Nick Ullett played Meadows. This production transferred to the Music Box Theatre on Broadway on 28 June 1986.Alec Baldwin, in his Broadway debut, replaced Kevin Bacon in the role of Dennis. It was awarded the 1986 Outer Critics Circle Awards for best revival and best director.
The Lyric Hammersmith staged a production directed by Peter James, which opened on 7 May 1992.Patrick O'Connell played McLeavy, Dearbhla Molloy played Fay, Ben Walden played Hal, Colin Hurley played Dennis, David Troughton (who had played Hal in the 1975 Royal Court production) played Truscott, and Richard Hodder played Meadows. It was designed by Bernard Culshaw.
Loot was revived from 11 December 2008 to 31 January 2009 at the Tricycle Theatre, London starring Matt Di Angelo and David Haig as Hal and Truscott. It transferred to Theatre Royal, Newcastle and ran between 2-7 February 2009.
A 2017 production directed by Michael Fentiman was staged at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, before transferring to the Watermill Theatre, Newbury. Christopher Fulford played Inspector Truscott and Sinead Matthews Nurse McMahon. The dead body was played by Anah Ruddin. Positive reviews for the production were published in The Independent,The Daily Telegraph,The Guardian and the Sunday Express.Michael Billington in The Guardian gave Loot a five star rating, commenting on the way Fentiman referenced the "shock tactics" in Orton's work, and stating: "the result not only sharpens an already subversive text but yields a first-rate production by Michael Fentiman that reminds us of the serious intent behind Orton's drollery."