Joe Orton's (pictured) Loot returns to its spiritual home and director this month with the opening in Manchester of a new production directed by Braham Murray. It begins previews tonight, 16 May 2001, at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre before opening next Monday, 21 May, and continuing to 23 June.

The first production of Loot, featuring Kenneth Williams as Inspector Truscott, fell foul of pressurised re-writes, in-fighting and the censor. On tour, it floundered badly and no London theatre would take it. But then the Century Theatre in Manchester threw it a lifeline.

Director Murray worked with Joe Orton on the re-writes and reinstated the cuts imposed by Lord Chamberlain. Under the watchful eye of the police stationed in the stalls, the new production opened in Manchester on 11 April 1966. Second time around, Loot was a triumph. It went on to a successful London run, winning Play of the Year and sealing Orton's reputation.

Thirty-five years later Murray has returned to take up the directorial reins for the classic satire on bereavement, authority and British moral values. In the new production, comic actor Derek Griffiths plays the part of Truscott, the long and twisted arm of the law who is a master of terrifying and arbitrary justice.

Murray believes the play still has the ability to shock modern audiences with its deep-rooted amorality. "It's still shocking to hide stolen money in your mother's coffin, strip her body naked and then try and dump the evidence in a bog," he says. "And when you have finally finished laughing, you realise that it is a devastatingly accurate picture of society."

Joining Griffiths in the cast are Gabrielle Drake, Colin Prockter, Robin Laing, Daniel Bowers and Toby Hadoke. Loot is designed by Johanna Bryant, with lighting by Michael Williams and sound by Steve Brown.

- by Terri Paddock