Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Mr Orton still entertaining

Lodger with intent: Joshua Raven as the mysterious and malevolent Mr Sloane with his accommodating landlady Kath played by Helen Lamas

Entertaining Mr Sloane

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


JOE Orton was the enfant terrible of the British theatre of the 1960s. Young, fresh and with a line in black comedy that shocked, challenged, outraged and amused in equal measures.

It might have been the Swinging Sixties but Orton had swung too far for many with sexual content, language and innuendo which these days seem tame but then gave theatregoers of a more delicate disposition an attack of the vapours.

Entertaining Mr Sloane was Orton's first stage play, first performed in 1964 where it lost money but garnered critical praise. Three years later Orton, aged 34, was dead, battered to death with a hammer by his long-time lover Kenneth Halliwell who then took a fatal drugs overdose. The dramatist had become the drama in what became the sensation of the latter half of 1967.

Forty eight years on Mr Sloane no longer has the ability to shock anyone but the most unworldly maiden aunt but still has some classic funny lines – “It's all any reasonable child can expect if the dad is present at the conception” – and it still has unnerving, disturbing characters.

Helen Lamas truly sparkles as Kath, the rather less than intellectually gifted daughter, who entertains Mr Sloane to the point of becoming pregnant. Not that that is anything new we discover.

She is desperate for a substitute for the son she had to give up for adoption as a schoolgril, and a replacement for the husband, or similar, who abandoned her, or was taken from her by his parents depending upon who you believe, and just wants to be loved . . . a lot. She sees Sloane as fair game to fulfil all three, son and lover as D H Lawrence might have it.


Her father, Kemp, played by the excellent Frank Welbourne, has failing sight, failing health and knows a devastating, and dangerous, fact about the mysterious Sloane. He gives a wonderful performance as a cantankerous, frail, obstinate old man.

Joshua Raven as Sloane makes a splendid stab at the mysterious lodger, the friendly neighbourhood psychopath. It is not easy to portray a charismatic nutter devoid of feelings or morality and Raven managed it in some style although he could perhaps give us a little more quiet evil in his character at times to give us the odd shiver up the spine.

After all by the time we finish we have him down for one murder for definite, a probable killing, a likely homicide and a fair chance he did his parents in as well to achieve orphan status. Nice bloke. Raven gives us mystery and a delicious streak of nastiness but a bit more quiet menace might make Mr Sloane a tad more entertaining.

Holding it all together is Kath's brother Ed, played by director Simon Atkins after an actor dropped out earlier in the production. He is a bit of a Boysie figure, in charge of everything, in control, or at least he thinks so. He controls his sister and her life and at first tries to control Sloane but slowly we see he is under the influence of the lodger amid homosexual undertones.

There are strange relationships all round with brother and sister  being nasty to their father while Sloane physically and verbally abuses him.

Both Ed and Kath take Sloane's side against their father yet he is the only one who can see through Sloane, who knows who and what he is.

Even when brother and sister could not fail to realise what Sloane was they still take his side against their father, preferring a share of a live Sloane to some sort of justice for a dead father.


Missing from the characters in Orton's play is any love or real affection. Kath has plenty of emotion, happy to scream and burst into tears at the drop of a lodger, but there is no real feeling between any of the characters.

The father is attacked by all, Kath is either seducing Sloane, blatently, or pleading with her brother, Ed cares little for anyone, although he wants to control his sister, but he does seem to have developed a dangerous attraction to Sloane, while Sloane . . . is a psychopath.

Relationships are fractured, conversations abrasive and not always logical which means the audience can never settle in anything approaching a comfort zone. It is difficult to identify or have any real empathy with any character but somehow it is strangely compelling, like watching a slow motion train crash.

The play is still a child of the 60s and these days a little old fashioned and no longer seen as avante garde or cutting edge but Atkins not only gave us a fine performance as the pompous, self made Ed but kept a tight rein on the production with some lovely touches, such as when Kath removes Mr Sloane's coat or the bloody minded insolence of Mr Sloane towards his employer Ed.

The set, designed by Andy Hares, is simple, a working class house at the end of a rubbish tip, seen towering in the background, and looks the part although if anything can be done about the creaking stage, shoes or boots whenever Mr Sloane walks around it would be appreciated.

It's a well- directed and excellently acted production, with some very funny lines, and is a chance to see what all the fuss was about in the West End almost 50 years ago. To 27-10-12.

Roger Clarke 

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