Well it’s been a busy few months with three performance of “Shoulder To Shoulder” celebrating one hundred years of women’s suffrage. Whilst we were preparing for performances for that massive project we also started rehearsals for “Entertaining Mr Sloane” by Joe Orton. The latter might have seemed a strange choice for our company. It is darkly funny, but one of the characters Ed is deeply misogynistic and the way he speaks to his sister Kath is loathsome. Yet as we cringe we also laugh. Ed does have the best lines. We discussed this as cast. Was Orton himself a misogynist? We all felt he wasn’t and that Ed’s character and the way he speaks is the result of his repression. This is what Orton is illustrating. Written in 1964 when homosexuality was illegal Orton shows us the deep hypocrisy of society at every opportunity. This is where repression brings us we felt he was saying. It brings us to an unnatural and painful order where few people if any are happy!
We had a wonderful rehearsal period as there was so much to discuss and research. The 1960s was a time of change. In some ways there were new freedoms, but there were also great restrictions. Researching and rehearsing to create the world of the play was so satisfying. We had a wonderful cast and team. The casting was absolutely right and there was a real chemistry between the actors. Set, lighting and sound were also spot on. Here are some of the reactions from audience and reviewers.
“The Play’s The Thing’ alternates between vividly-staged, masterfully-chosen theatre ‘classics’ and its own original scripts or devised performances. Following on from its successful original creation ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ which celebrated the centenary of The Vote for Women in the UK, ‘Entertaining Mr. Sloane’ offers an extraordinarily clever contrast.
Male-dominated, misogynistic and certainly not a love-letter to the human spirit, Joe Orton’s controversial play could be seen as a strange choice to follow ‘Shoulder to Shoulder.’ However, there something of a ‘theatrical vaccination’ to this performance.
We know that a vaccination takes the offending disease in weakened or extinct form and allows the human body to build its own natural resistance. The pathogen is resisted. In today’s climate of ‘#MeToo’ and the next steps on the road to full gender equality, this performance of ‘Sloane’ is that vaccine; we watch, recognising the toxicity of Kath’s treatment and we are revolted. The statement is made subtly in reverse. A witty choice for the company, particularly when flawlessly executed in the acting and the direction” Nik Larcombe
“It may be the swinging 60’s but the social conventions and confines are as restrictive as ever. Joe Orton takes a big shiny pin and bursts the moral, judgemental balloon.
With a gorgeous 60’s pop soundtrack, gorgeous set (outstanding work as ever by Kevin Jenkins) which took me back to my Grandparents living room. Red glow from the electric fire included. This is far more than an amazing looking and lit production (lighting by James Tearle) it’s a lovely confection.
But a confection made of dark, delicious things. Lisa Stenhouse as Kath is hilarious, disturbing and sympathetic in equal measure.
Richard Galloway’s ‘Sloane’ is fascinating, his standing in the social order of the house is constantly changing and Richard’s portrayal of this sociopath is compelling.
My favourite character was Ed who was played superbly by Davin Eadie. This sexually repressed character trying so hard to keep up the facade of Heterosexuality. It’s the gorgeous moments when the facade cracks that I loved most.
Completing the cast Colin Jeffery as Kemp. This shambling old man whose eyesight is failing is in so many ways the most tragic of these flawed characters. Colin’s physicality in the role is a joy.
All in all a wonderful night in the company of some beautifully flawed characters.
Go see this - it’s brilliant” Sean Calvert
“The strength of Orton’s writing can be felt throughout the piece and, when played to its full potential, the piece has the audience laughing knowingly one minute and grimacing through the violence of it all the next. Director Rosemary Hill has clearly delighted in this aspect of the piece, allowing her actors the freedom to revel in every innuendo and tongue in cheek comment. There’s also a knowing sense of decay (moral and physical) that runs through the piece, highlighted by Kevin Jenkins wonderful set design. The house is physically crumbling at its edges, with huge mounds of rubbish outside the window, hung up to dry on a washing line. The Sixties inspired furniture further adds to the tangled quality of Kath and her father, Kemp’s life – a mess of memories, hardship and ill-placed consumerism. Whilst the blocking was a little confused in places, the piece rolls along steadily, exploring theme upon theme. Holding up what Orton perceived as the hypocrisies of the lower-middle class, exploring heterosexual and homosexual desire and the racist and sexist comments of the characters, it’s no surprise how shocking this was in the Sixties” Carly Halse for Female Arts
“Loved the show tonight. So callous and vicious, the exact right tone for Orton. I thought the casting was great and it was good to see Kemp played properly. So many productions sideline the character which makes the ultimate solution in the play unconvincing. Thought the whole cast were excellent, pace was spot on and some good exploited silences. Really enjoyed tonight” Steve Dimmer
“Wow! What an amazing performance of “Entertaining Mr Sloane” at Stantonbury Theatre - well done indeed Rosemary Hill, Davin Eadie and everyone. If you haven’t got a ticket - get one!” Kath Yates
“The acting was superb. Your direction was flawless. With your skilful nurturing and embodiment of Orton’s play, you gave the audience an opportunity to savour each word and nuance from start to finish. Each character carefully crafted and intertwined with the other characters. Absolutely loved the set too. Bravo!” Andra Alexander
Photos by Simon Raynor
So now we are planning for 2019 and we have some very special events planned, but they will take months to bring to fruition. Amazing projects take time to build partnerships, get funding in place and organise. All worth it in the end though. Watch this space!