Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

23/10/2009 - 21/11/2009

Production Details


Michael Hurst directs JOE ORTON’s hilarious masterpiece. 

Detective fiction, religious ridicule, morality and the integrity of the police force are all under the magnifying glass; Silo Theatre brings the dark farce LOOT to Auckland audiences from October 23rd, as David McPhail leads the company in one of the greatest stage comedies of all time.

Dear old Mrs. McLeavy is dead. She is survived by her husband, a devoted Catholic and horticulturalist, and her son Hal, a naughty young lad with grand larceny on his mind. After three days of mourning, the newly embalmed corpse resides in situ awaiting burial. Well, kind of. Some of the time.

Hal and his best mate Dennis have just robbed a bank and need a place to stash the dosh. So the coffin is hijacked and the bandaged cadaver chucked into the closet. Enter mayhem pursued by triple entendre.   

A mixture of Six Feet Under, French farce and heist thriller matured in Pinteresque menace, Loot aims the barrel of his literary gun up against the foreheads of the Roman Catholic Church, social attitudes towards death and the honesty of the police force. Loot marked English playwright Joe Orton’s third major production – one that outraged audiences upon its first performance through Orton’s penchant for the macabre and black humour – giving birth to the widely recognized theatrical term "Ortonesque".

Orton’s penchant for dark humour was not reserved for the stage alone – taking up the pen name "Edna Welthrope", this character criticized Orton’s work on the grounds of decency and taste, drumming up controversy within the newspapers and goading authority figures into revealing their own idiocy and priggishness.

As synonymous with satire as he is infamous for his Sir Robert Muldoon impression, David McPhail’s lineage across a multitude of media platforms has seen him become not only an actor, but a writer, producer and director in varying disciplines in New Zealand. Starting his ascension into New Zealand’s cultural history in 1977 with A Week of It, his work with Jon Gadsby lead to a trail of successful (and influential) comedy shows such as McPhail and Gadsby, Issues, More Issues and Letter to Blanchy.

McPhail’s solo work has been critically acclaimed also – playing it straight as finance Roger Douglas in Fallout and the lead role in Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, a politically incorrect satire regarding a paedophilic school teacher completely out of touch with educational theory in the second millennium. On top of these roles, McPhail has produced and directed over 300 programmes for TVNZ, from documentaries to children’s programmes while also doing much work for The Court Theatre in his hometown – Christchurch. He was last seen in Auckland in Colin McColl’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for Auckland Theatre Company.

Veteran director Michael Hurst brings together an ensemble cast which also include Silo Theatre alumni Mia Blake, Cameron Rhodes, David Van Horn, Charlie McDermott and Sam Snedden, all portraying characters devoid of conventional mortality, and delivering this blacker than ink comedy which nearly ended Orton’s career as a playwright, yet has stood the test of time and become one of his greatest works created.

LOOT plays
23rd October – 21st November 2009
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE®
Tickets: $20.00 – $39.00 (service fees will apply)
Tickets available through THE EDGE® – www.buytickets.co.nz or 09 357 3355

Fay McMahon:  MIA BLAKE
Inspector Truscott:  CAMERON RHODES

direction:  MICHAEL HURST
set design:  RACHAEL WALKER
costume design:  SOPHIE HAM
lighting design            :  JEREMY FERN

production management:  JOSH HYMAN
stage management:  JOSH HYMAN, PIP SMITH
properties management:  BECS EHLERS
technical operation:  STUART PHILLIPS
set construction:  2 CONSTRUCT

graphic design:  CONCRETE
production photography:  AARON K, ANDREW MALMO

Satire keeps a straight face for humour

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 26th Oct 2009

Joe Orton’s shock tactics and surrealism are a volatile mix that stands the test of time.

Joe Orton’s outrageously irreverent farce perfectly embodies the spirit of London in the Swinging Sixties – smart, sexy, exuberant and overflowing with the cocksure adolescent attitude that animates the Beatles’ earliest recordings.
The play stands the test of time – thanks to Orton’s brilliantly acerbic wit and wildly inventive plotting – but also shares the limitations of the sixties revolution which triumphantly tore apart the hypocritical establishment but was less successful at building a viable alternative.

For all its vitality, Loot is a seriously amoral, nihilistic play that proposes a deeply cynical view of human nature and lacks the righteous indignation that inspires the best satire. [More]


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Sex, death, robbery, religion and a massive dollop of disrespect

Review by Candice Lewis 24th Oct 2009

Loot opens with grieving McLeavy (David McPhail) sitting sadly by the coffin of his deceased wife. He, and we, are abruptly snapped into bright focus as Nurse McMahon (Mia Blake) flicks on the light and sashays across the room dispensing her particular brand of gold-digging wisdom.

While the Nurse plots her eighth marriage, McLeavy’s son Hal (David Van Horn) has got himself into thieving mischief with the help of his friend and lover, Dennis (Charlie McDermott).

Hal and Dennis attempt to get away with their crime, and in the midst of this, a strange and mysterious water board inspector arrives on the scene and ups the ante. Inspector Truscott (Cameron Rhodes) provides much of the comedy gold; his character is absurd and delightful.

The pace and chemistry zings when the Inspector interrogates anyone, especially Dennis! Amidst the mayhem, the corpse of Mrs McLeavy is treated like a sack of manure and Nurse McMahon struts around like a super hot sixties pinup come to life. Sex, death, robbery, religion and a massive dollop of disrespect make for a fun story.

I like the set design (Rachel Walker), where Mrs McLeavy convalesced and in which all the action takes place. It is painted in cold shades of white and grey. I would call it Nun-chic.

The director (Michael Hurst) has done well with the limited stage space in the Herald Theatre. It is inevitable that some of us miss important visual slices of the show depending on where we are seated. This is particularly so when, during one scene, Dennis stands at the foot of the coffin and completely blocks the facial gymnastics of Mr McLeavy. This garners laughs from most of the audience, and David McPhail is a crowd favourite.

When Loot debuted in 1965 it was evidently met with public outrage, possibly because it joyously romps all over death and authority in such a light-hearted way. The farce shows its 1965 roots as clearly as a tired bottle blonde, yet there is something endearing about it, a little like watching a re-run of an English comedy in which a nurse’s cleavage will always get a laugh.

I do find myself smiling a lot, and laughing a couple of times. It’s a fun night out. My pervy old granddad would love it, were he alive. 
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