Volume 93, Issue 74

Thursday, February 10, 2000


Loot a well-executed farce

Harris has working-class appeal

CBS decision a stab to the heart

Guitarist well-versed in creating new images

Loot a well-executed farce

©Mark Pytlik/Gazette

By Mark Pytlik
Gazette Staff

Loot is a measured and often cynical work which endeavours to explore everything from organized religion, to the sometimes maddening bureaucracy of our own authorities.

Although penned over three decades ago, the underlying themes of Joe Orton's 1965 work ring especially true in today's society. It's this simple fact that helps render the Western English Department's latest adaptation an unqualified success and prove almost conclusively that greed and self-absorption will never go out of style.

At the centre of it all is Mr. McLeavy, a misguided and naive widower played to clumsy perfection by Richard Green. On the eve of his wife's passing, McLeavy must contend with a cast of characters each bent on satisfying their own dubious desires. Susan McDonald plays Fay McMahon, a sinister and sweetly manipulative nurse with designs to become the next Mrs. McLeavy.

Chris Lockett stars as McLeavy's son Hal, an honest yet misguided dullard who, along with his friend and sometimes lover, Dennis (Jayson McDonald), robs a bank and stashes the money in his mother's coffin. David Leeson rounds out the main cast as Truscott, the cryptic, straight-laced detective bent on getting to the bottom of things by taking the most difficult route possible.

Although there is some physical comedy involved, Loot's main attraction is the script, which is rife with dry one-liners. In the hands of a less capable cast, the bulk of Loot's beauty may have gone unrealized – but director Cameron McFarlane deserves credit for preserving the integrity of the original script.

The small ensemble in this production manage to somehow expertly weave in and out of Orton's often dizzying dialogue and still leave room for laughter. Of particular note is Green, whose performance as the befuddled and God-fearing McLeavy proves instantly endearing. Also crucial to the play is Leeson, who imbues Truscott with a comically stolid demeanour that hammers home Orton's obvious disdain for bureaucratic tyranny.

Most of the laughs in Loot are of a darkly comic variety. One particularly memorable scene has Hal and Dennis emptying the coffin by literally dumping it's contents into a bedroom closet. They're so rough with the corpse that they manage to dislodge a glass eye in the process. This is indicative of the type of characters who pervade the play – they're too callous to know any better.

Designed to appeal to the cynic in all of us, this bleak material extends beyond the normal scope of the macabre. At the heart of Loot is a biting social commentary which is almost always devastatingly accurate. Orton's wry jabs at various social and religious conventions are augmented by the sly and knowing performances of the actors, who seem to relish the opportunity to make such points with class.

All in all, Loot is an enjoyable and often fast-paced farce which succeeds on a multitude of levels. Those looking for an intelligently acted and modest exercise in social satire will not be disappointed.

Loot runs at Conron Hall in University College until Feb. 12. Tickets are $8 for students and $10 for non-students.

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