The adjective Ortonesque is now used to refer to something characterised by a dark but farcical cynicism. (Wikipedia)
Entertaining Mr Sloane, was the very first of Joe Orton’s plays, and “dark but farcical” it is! It is the story of two siblings fighting for the affections of a sexually ambiguous attractive man who is somewhat of a drifter. First performed in 1964, reviews ranged from praise to outrage. Even today it is quite a shocking play, so I can’t imagine what the audience thought back in the ‘60’s. References to Kath’s (Olivia d’Abo) titties which Mr Sloane (Emrhys Cooper) proceeds to squeeze, her desperation to get him in to bed, plus the sexual attraction Ed (Ian Buchanan) has for Sloane, are all quite risqué subjects to address, certainly then and probably in some parts of the world, even now.
It is a three act play, which Stan Zimmerman directs very well. He doesn’t rush the play but keeps the pace at a good tempo so you are captivated even when Dada (Robin Gammell) is slowly toasting crumpets over the fire. At some points d’Abo is channeling Beryl Reid (who played Kath in the film) but if I am honest she may be a little too attractive and as a result you don’t necessarily feel the handsome Sloane is punching below his weight. She delivers one of the best and most outrageous lines in the play "The light is showing me up. I blame it on the manufacturers. They make garments so thin nowadays, you'd think they intended to provoke a rape.”, the audience didn’t know whether to laugh or be outraged.
Ian Buchanan is fantastic as Ed and when he is on stage it is hard to take your eyes off him. He is the perfect combination of a common middle aged man with grandeurs who is struggling with his lust for the 'smooth bodied' young Sloane whilst also desperately trying to keep up appearances. Emrhys Cooper is perfectly cast for the title role of Mr Sloane and handles the huge task of portraying con artist/ flirt/chancer/bully/opportunist and
murderer spectacularly well. Knowing Emrhys (fellow Brits in LA member) in the real world I can vouch he isn’t any of the above ! Seeing the play in LA also made me realize how relevant it is for us living here, there are a lot of characters in Hollywood very similar to ones we meet in Entertaining Mr Sloane. If you get the chance I recommend you pay this show a visit, especially to all you naysayers who profess there is no decent theatre in Los Angeles. I have to hand it to the artistic director (Joel Daavid) and the costume designer (Kevin King) who captured England in the 1960’s impeccably, can I have the arm chairs when you are done with the show please??
Entertaining Mr Sloane can be seen at The Actors Company Thursday – Sunday, until July 24th
Brits in LA members get a $10 discount with code 410