The vertiginous Trafalgar Studios tends to go in for celebrity casting. This version of Joe Orton’s 1960s black comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane features Matthew Horne, star of the TV shows Gavin and Stacey, and Horne and Corden, as the eponymous Sloane. He is also currently in the news for collapsing on stage during a performance of this very show.
The production – directed by Nick Bagnall – is firmly set in its historic period –the 1960s. It seems both of its time and yet speaks to the early 21st century too. For example, Sloane is a self-justifying parasite, whose emphasis is on self and pleasure. But the play is also about role-playing, power struggles and self-deceit.
In many ways it overlaps with the world of Harold Pinter, but is more overtly humorous and camp. In fact, it’s probably a missing link between Pinter and the comedy writers responsible for Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe and Son, Galton and Simpson. It is this blurring of dramatic and comic boundaries that provides the successes and disappointments of the production.
Imelda Staunton is spectacularly good as Kath, Sloane’s landlady. Her performance is completely lacking in vanity – she provides a remarkable portrayal of the character. However, Matthew Horne disappoints as Sloane –his performance doesn’t suggest the ebb and flow of the power struggle between his character and those of Kath’s brother Ed or her father Kemp; he felt neither dangerous nor particularly sexy.
The stage at Trafalgar Studios is steeply raked and Imelda Staunton is very short – so there is visual fun to be had with the contrast between her height and the tall spindly actors who play her brother (Simon Paisley Day) and father (Richard Bremmer).
Altogether though, this is an interesting and worthwhile revival of Orton’s play. During the current absence of Matthew Horne, Entertaining Mr Sloane is worth seeing for Imelda Staunton’s performance alone.
Closes 13th April