Review: Dark and disturbing grandeur in Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Priory

Joe Riley as Mr Sloane and Sarah Hubbard as Kathy
Joe Riley as Mr Sloane and Sarah Hubbard as Kathy

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth

Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane should be a simple play to stage. Yet this dark, disturbing psychological thriller, which caused a scandal in the 1960s and has divided audiences ever since, demands the highest standards of acting and stagecraft.

The eponymous Sloane (Joe Riley) is a young thug of powerful sexual charm, who is attractive to both sexes. He falls in with seedy landlady Kathy (Marlene Penn) who seduces him easily. Trouble is, her elderly myopic father, Kemp (Ken Reader), recognises him as the man who murdered his boss many years ago. But the real villain of the piece is Kathy’s brother Ed (Nic James), who recognises Sloane’s charms and employs him as a leather-clad chauffeur. Sloane eventually murders Kemp when he threatens to reveal the boy’s true identity, but far from freeing him, this act of unspeakable cruelty binds them together in a sado-masochistic menage-a-trois, and Ed and Kathy agree to share the boy as a way to cover up the crime.

What was so shocking back in the sixties were the references to homosexuality. Now the shock comes in the relentless misogyny. Ed is a woman-hater of unparalleled ferocity, and he finds a willing accomplice in Sloane and a victim in Kathy.

This production suffered from first night nerves and glitches, including the last minute substitution of one of the cast, but that doesn’t take away the dark grandeur of this deeply disturbing play. It puts the boot into working class respectability and leaves it gasping on the floor.

* Entertaining Mr Sloane runs until Saturday May 30. Call 01926 863334 for tickets.