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July 13, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Entertaining Mr. Sloane


There are many different kinds of laughs. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the theatre. There is the laugh of surprise, the laugh of the release of tension, the laugh of shock, the laugh of unease and the laugh of expectation. The laugh of expectation, of knowing, is what tittered through the audience of the opening night of Entertaining Mr. Sloane.

It seemed to me, admittedly uneducated in the merry myths of the gleefully notorious Joe Orton, that a lot of the laughter was generated not by any inherent comedy in the performance but in the expectation, rising from Orton’s and the play’s reputation, that it is funny. There is a difference between something being funny and being told that something is funny. If you know what I mean. Throughout the severe majority of the first act of the play, very nearly every line got a laugh. Which was more than slightly disconcerting.

This is not to say that the play is without mirth. Far from it. Orton very clearly is a master wordsmith, he knows exactly how to twist a phrase for ultimate funniness. His characters are delicious monsters and ones the actors clearly have a lot of fun bringing to the stage. Richard Dey as the sociopathic Sloane is a delight, dominating the stage with his questionable sex appeal. Yvette Parsons as the desperate middle-aged middle-classed housewife Kath chews the scenery with welcome and fantastic energy. Ken Blackburn perfectly pitches his distracted and distant faded patriarch Kemp. Stephen Papps as the deliciously tightly wound Ed rounds out the cast with precise poise.

The story is simple—Sloane is a seventeen-year-old toy boy with a vicious manipulative streak who lodges with Kath, sexually frustrated and alone, and her father Kemp. Ed, Kath’s brother, doesn’t approve for a variety of reasons. Things then proceed to get pretty mental pretty quickly.

Mr. Sloane is a wonderful confection, if slightly over-egged. Conrad Newport’s direction along with Sean Coyle’s set, Jennifer Lal’s lights and Gillie Coxill’s costumes serve the text masterfully, allowing the actors largely unrestricted ability to ham up it deliciously. While the really repellent gender politics of the piece do somewhat stick in the craw, it is a nice show for a nice night out.

Entertaining Mr. Sloane
Written by Joe Orton
Directed by Conrad Newport
With Yvette Parsons, Richard Dey, Ken Blackburn and Stephen Papps

At Circa Two, from 4 July to 1 August 2009
Book at


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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