Orton’s “breakthrough” play, Entertaining Mr Sloane is considered the most autobiographical in his short career (Orton was bludgeoned to death by his former lover Kenneth Halliwell in 1967). It centres on the sexual tug-of-war between siblings Kath and Ed for the affections of handsome young lodger Sloane, and was last seen in the West End at the Arts Theatre in 2001.
Alongside Horne, the new production also features Imelda Staunton (Kath), Simon Paisley Day (Ed) and Richard Bremmer (Dada). Its designed by Peter McKintosh, with Kathy Burke acting as artistic associate.
Although the play may have lost some of its shock value over the years, critics nevertheless welcomed Bagnall's “hilarious” revival of Orton's “historic black comedy”. In the title role, Mathew Horne divided opinion between those who felt he lacked experience and requisite sex appeal, and those who felt the young comic actor, in the words of Michael Billington, “keeps his end up”. Imelda Staunton stole most of the plaudits as the nymphomaniac Kath, managing to be “somehow both grotesque … and genuinely endearing”. There was high praise too for Richard Bremmer's “suitably decrepit” Dada and Simon Paisley Day's “beautifully played” Ed.
- by Theo Bosanquet