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Fifty years ago, at the age of 34, anarchic playwright Joe Orton was bludgeoned to death by his lover Kenneth Halliwell who then took his own life.

Had Orton been alive to tell the tale, it’s just the sort of grim event he might have included in his plays. Most of what happens in his 1965 hit black comedy revolves around the corpse (played here with remarkable flexibility and stoicism by Anah Ruddin) of the recently deceased but yet to be buried Mrs McLeavy. The coffin takes pride of place in Gabrielle Slade’s chapel-like design with its mildly suggestive stained glass windows and all important cupboard in which to hide the body – and a stash of stolen bank notes – when Sgt Truscott comes to call investigating a recent bank robbery.  .

Orton’s parody of detective fiction is mercilessly critical of the police, the church and socially acceptable behaviour in general. Michael Fentiman’s revival (which reinstates censored cuts originally made by the Lord Chamberlain) keeps things moving along smoothly as the excellent Sinead Matthews’ resourceful, seven-times married Irish nurse, Fay, plots her next wedding to (and subsequent despatch of) Ian Redford’s perplexed, recently bereaved McLeavy. Meanwhile his thieving son Hal and accomplice/lover Dennis worry about concealing the misappropriated cash, and Christopher Fulford’s pipe smoking, borderline manic Truscott (implausibly insisting he’s from the Metropolitan Water Board) succumbs all too easily to the prospect of pocketing some extra dosh in an enjoyable production which, though no longer particularly shocking, still affords an entertaining evening of subversive humour.                          

Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Tube: Finsbury Park 

Until 24th September 2017 

£20.00 - £29.50

parktheatre.co.uk

 


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