Loot – Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster

Writer: Joe Orton

Director: Karl Falconer

Joe Orton’s Loot is a bleak farce that, almost 60 years since its premiere, retains the ability to shock, delight, and amuse its audience, judging by the reaction to its final performance in Dublin’s Smock Alley. Receiving its first uncensored Irish production, the play shows signs of its roots in the England of the mid-sixties, but the core themes – religious hypocrisy, piety, police corruption, and illicit homosexuality – are still keenly felt. While this production was at times frayed, as the manic nature of the script overtook the performers, it was a fascinating and often impressive work.

Beginning with more than a hint of menace, a story of petty, sociopathic criminals soon devolves into an increasingly comic and convoluted tale, in which everyone finally prospers – except, of course, the one character who hasn’t done anything wrong. Harold McLeavy (Daniel Partington) and Dennis (Lee Abbate), who are hinted to be lovers, have robbed a bank and are trying to stash the loot in Harold’s mother’s coffin. The mourning Mr McLeavy (played admirably by Nigel Richards, script-in-hand, as a last-minute Covid-caused replacement) is being comforted by his late wife’s nurse (Natasha Ryan), who is more concerned with making him her 8th husband in a decade.

Mr McLeavy, in contrast to the other characters, has an admirable yet detached faith in public institutions, from the Catholic Church to the police, but this is his fatal error – he is framed for murder and theft by the trio, in tandem with police officer Truscott, who originally and repeatedly insists that he is “from the Water Board”. Also directing, Karl Falconer plays Truscott in a perfectly exaggerated fashion, dominating the second act, when it had seemed that the oily, loose-limbed Harold would.

It would be cruel to focus on several missed lines and issues with the functioning of props, as they were all dealt with in charming and amusing ways, but they pointed at a certain raggedness that is baked into the play – despite the stellar work of each performer, this play gets too ridiculous and baroque for its own good; over two hours is too long for any farce that carries on with such pace and energy.

Runs Until 13th April 2023.


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