Theatre review: Loot at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Tower Theatre Company delivers polished production of Joe Orton’s timeless piece of dark comic genius

Loot was originally penned in the 1960s, where it won a number of awards and cemented Joe Orton’s reputation as a playwright. A spoof crime thriller that mocks the church, death and the police, its outrageously bad taste and hilarious dark farce were condemned and lauded in equal measure. I was intrigued to see whether a play that had stirred such strong emotions almost half a century ago could evoke the same in a jaded, digital age audience.

The opening scene finds widower McLeavy sleeping in a chair next to his late wife’s coffin, amid a well designed set that transported the audience from the cosy loft at the Gatehouse into a house of mourning. Enter the seemingly pious nurse and carer Fay and from the outset the script hurtles forward at an explosive pace. Brilliantly deadpan in the delivery of a number of scandalous lines, Jean Collins puts in an impressive performance in revealing Fay’s more sinister motives in caring for John Chapman’s endearingly bumbling McLeavy. Paul Isaacs is intriguing as the emotionless bank robber Hal, his portrayal leaving me wondering whether he was mildly deranged or merely incredibly callous and Dan Usztan hits just the right side of dopey as Hal’s partner in crime Dennis to bring the slapstick scenes of the ensuing debacle to life.

Despite exploring a number of questionable themes, the cast did a commendable job of ensuring that the laughs remained firmly on their flawed characters. However it was Julian Farrance who inevitably stole the show in the role of Inspector Truscott, dazzling and confounding the audience with his hypnotic rhetoric and, at times, so unbelievably irritating that that you could sympathise with the unsavoury characters squirming under his eccentric line of questioning.

The Tower Theatre Company’s polished delivery brings this witty satire to life in a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes. A timeless piece of dark comic genius.


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* Loot was at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate Village, N6, from October 16 to October 20.

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