LOOT, Black Rat Productions, Ffwrnes, Llanelli 

Dusty welcoming us into the auditorium, the set recognisably early sixties, the coffin centre stage – and then hospital screens drawn across the coffin to display a video sequence of a bank robbery by two young men who we get to know well pretty soon. It was a clever , intriguing start to Joe Orton’s Loot, first staged in Cambridge in 1965. The current production at the Lyric, Camarthen and at Ffwrnes, Llanelli is by Black Rat Productions and the Blackwood Miners’ Institute. Orton’s script sparkles with wit, pace, slapstick and black farce and as such is demanding on any company, This company largely rose to the challenge.

Loot was a very controversial play at the time – it challenged sexual, political and other contemporary mores including death. It could be seen, fifty odd years later, as dated but the quality of the dialogue and the social and political challenges resurfacing today make this debateable. This production used Orton’s original script, ignoring the Lord Chamberlain’s 1967 licence condition the ” the corpse is inanimate and (should ) not (be) played by an actress”. So perhaps the first acting accolade should go to Julie Barclay as Mrs McLeary  for such agility ( in the wardrobe), breathing ability (in the coffin), and disappearing ability ( from the bed).

 

Rick Yale and Sarah Jane Hopkins

 

Sarah Jayne Hopkins, John Cording and Rick Yale

 

The piece demands pace and clarity from what has to be an ensemble performance and the cast delivered in the main. John Cording as Mr McLeary held the centre  in a carefully modulated performance as the law abiding citizen surrounded by the corrupted and corruptible. Samuel Davies as Truscott, the waterboard/police inspector, gave us a finely tuned Clouseau-like performance combined with casual displays of vicious violence. Sarah Jayne Hopkins as Fay warmed to her part as the nurse who kills . She got a round of applause for an Exorcist like moment at the end of the play. Fay has a central role in the play and she is certainly a woman to be reckoned with- perhaps an opportunity to move towards the Villanelle (from the TV series Killing Eve) end of the spectrum in the performance? Rick Yale as Hal and Gareth Tempest as Dennis ( the bank robbers) held their own and had great opportunities for slapstick, messing around and kissing. The physicality and timing of the production was impressive – the cast moving themselves and other items ( the body, the coffin, a glass eye – yes an eye) with great agility and speed.

 

Samuel Davies and  Sarah Jayne Hopkins

 

Rick Yale and Gareth Tempest

The set was identifiably 60’s with well chosen wallpaper and the famous Chinese Girl on the wall  together with pictures reflecting the family’s Catholic beliefs. To be completely accurate the cross should have been a crucifix. Sound and lighting were  used to witty effect at some moments including the music from Psycho to highlight Fay’s evil nature, and the song In My Mother’s Eyes during the glass eye slapstick sequence.

There are some aspects of the script that could be seen as problematic in today’s world – notably joking references to rape and child prostitution. The audience at this performance did not laugh. It is somewhat disturbing to think, however, that similar references to these could well be in today’s twittersphere and even in the mouth’s of some world leaders.

Sadly the audience for this performance in Llanelli was very small – appreciative but very small. As one audience member said, it is so good to have the opportunity to see live theatre. Sadly this becomes a vicious circle: live theatre-small audience-less/no live theatre. Those of us that were there certainly applaud this production – and will hopefully have the opportunity to see applaud more live theatre in the near future .

 

Further performances:

 

1 – 3 November 7.45pm
ROYAL WELSH COLLEGE
OF MUSIC & DRAMA
029 2039 1391
rwcmd.ac.uk

6 November 7.30pm
BOROUGH THEATRE, Abergavenny
01873 850805
boroughtheatreabergavenny.co.uk

9 November 7.30pm
MAESTEG TOWN HALL
01656 815995
maestegtownhall.com

10 November 7.30pm
THEATR BRYCHEINIOG, Brecon
01874 611622
brycheiniog.co.uk

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