Entertaining Mr Sloane | State Theatre Company of South AustraliaPhotos - Shane Reid

Joe Orton’s
1964 play Entertaining Mr. Sloane is a lot tamer than the State Theatre Company’s advertising would have you believe. Particularly the tag line, “In the 60s, apartments weren’t the only thing for rent,” and those postcards which spell it out even more explicitly: “Insert finger here to see how rent was paid in the sixties.” Known for his black comedies that caused scandal when they premiered, in 2010 the most curious thing about Orton’s text is that it once appeared sexually shocking at all.

That’s not to say none of the themes played out in the play are shocking. If someone was to come out of the play thinking it was a lighthearted romp I think I would be rather worried. Mr. Sloane (Renato Fabretti) is looking for a room to stay in, and he finds it in the house of Kath (Jacki Weaver) and her “Dadda”, Kemp (Dennis Olsen). There, Sloane quickly plays Kath and her brother, Ed (Sean Taylor), who fight each other over his possession, while he also torments the elderly and frail Kemp, who recognises Sloane as the man who murdered his boss.

It is on the audience’s second visit to the family six months later in act two where the play really comes into its own, and the darkness of the comedy is completed. After Sloane murders Kemp, it is almost all Kath and Ed can do to figure out how they can each keep Sloane, and Orton’s text, delivered by a wonderful cast under Adam Cook’s direction is very funny.

Entertaining Mr. Sloane is set in the lounge room of a house situated “in the midst of a rubbish dump”, beautifully illustrated by Victoria Lamb’s set design, extending the rubbish dump away from the thrust stage of a detailed and neglected living room and into the auditorium. More piles of rubbish extend behind the set as seen through the lounge window, giving the air that this room is almost encased within the dump.

The cast is brilliant, particularly Weaver as the lonely, dimwitted, and motherly Kath. While she has a slight tendency to deliver some lines straight to the house, Weaver developed a great character, physically, vocally, and most of all through that laugh!

It is a fine play presented naturalistically, yet in the 21st century, the themes and direction present a text that carries the slight air of a museum piece. There is nothing truly shocking or groundbreaking in the production, and while Orton’s themes may be dated, his dialogue is still sharp, and it is an enjoyable night out.

State Theatre Company of South Australia presents
Entertaining Mr Sloane
by Joe Orton

Director Adam Cook

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
Dates: 2 – 25 July 2010
Tickets: from $25 (under 30), $40 (concession), $45 (adults)
Bookings: BASS on 131 246 | www.bass.net.au

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