Where: West End
24 January 2001 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews When Joe Orton's comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane first exploded on the stage of the Arts Theatre in 1964, the Daily Telegraph's then critic, WA Darlington, infamously declared, "I feel as if snakes had been writhing around my feet." That the play is still capable of arousing strong reactions is illustrated by the fact that Darlington's Telegraph successor, Charles Spencer, has been moved to declare in his review of this revival, "I'm not sure that the old boy wasn't on to something."
The group of American students sitting behind me when I attended seemed likewise shocked and titillated in equal measure by the subversively dark sexual undercurrents coursing through the play. I lost count of the number of times the girls exclaimed, "Oh Gaaahd!", and the boys, "Oh Maaahn!"
Orton weaves a tangled sexual web in the triangle of desire, control and manipulation that simmers between two single middle-aged siblings - a brother (
Clive Francis, a fine study in repressed desire and repellant sleaziness) and sister ( Alison Steadman, giving another in her memorable repertoire of comedy grotesques) - and the attractive young man ( Neil Stuke, smooth in every sense) who comes to stay with them and for whose affections they compete. A fourth character, the father of the brother and sister (superbly taken by Bryan Pringle), meets a cruel, heartless fate, and adds an uneasy edge to the proceedings. The play alternately brings to mind a Pinteresque comedy of menace, like The Caretaker, and the Wildean comedy of social and character observation, like The Importance of Being Earnest.
Terry Johnson's production locates the pace and panache of the plot, but though individually all the performances are terrific, they donít quite work to the same comic rhythms. Itís as if the actors are taking their parts in isolation of one other.
Entertaining Mr Sloane- which received its world premiere at the tiny Arts Theatre - is welcome back in the theatre, galvanising its new, recently refurbished incarnation as a home for interesting revivals and new work.
Mark Shenton Related Content
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