THE PROGRAMME for Joe Orton's Loot, at the Royal Court Theatre reprints the author's note on the first publication of the play. It quotes the Lord Chamberlain's conditions for granting a licence.
Ten years later, in today's context, some of them strike one as out of place, but this is not so much a reflection on the Lord Chamberlain of his time as on society today.
Blasphemy has become commonplace, the Establishment exists to be debunked, and instead of the Lord Chamberlain preventing race friction, we now pass laws to do so.
The play was the product of an "angry young man," when these were fashionable. I suspect that he was brought up in a Catholic atmosphere, either at home or at school, and he announces that he had been in prison. The play is an attack on both the Catholic Church and the police.
Of course, some of what he says is quite legitimate and some of it amusing. But as a satirical comedy it is crudely constructed and written, and shows little theatrical ability.
A shortened version as a school charade would have been very funny, but I can see little point in reviving it. Originally the "angry young man" shocking us may have been enough reason for putting the play on; today it does not shock us so there is no reason for its revival.
Given poor theatre, the actors do remarkably well — Jill Bennett, Arthur O'Sullivan and (especially) David Troughton, as the rather "simple" young Catholic.
I sometimes wonder how the Arts Council decides to which theatre it will give financial assistance, and to what extent. Recently one has come to ask how the Royal Court Theatre qualifies. I don't know whether The Round House at Chalk Farm, does; the present production there of the New Shakespeare Company from the Open Air Theatre, does — and rightly so.
The New Shakespeare Company is a guest at The Round House until the middle of July, when its own Open Air Theatre
in Regent's Park will be ready. A new auditorium complex is at present being completed there.
The Round House is an ideal setting for Shakespeare, as it was for "Godspell" when it made its debut in London. The present production of The Taming of the Shrew, is worth a visit to Chalk Farm. Although it is not the West End, it is right next to Chalk Farm Station and only a few minutes on the Northern Line from Leicester Square.
I would not pretend that the present production is Shakespeare at its best. It lacks the star quality performances we expect at the National Theatre or The Aldwych. But it makes one speculate why we invest vast sums of money in plush theatres.
With star actors, the starkness of The Round House would serve Shakespeare as well, if not better. It has the right atmosphere to give emphasis to the play rather than to a night out.
This production by Mervyn Willis is very lively and imaginative. The setting is mainly plain scaffolding, but it and the costumes, designed by Bob Ringwood, expertly utilise simplicity and ingenuity. The acting is uniformly sound, but I must make special mention of Zoe Wanamaker's Katherina and Jeremy Irons's Petruchio, and a perfect cameo performance by Richard Goolden.
The intimacy of the Criterion Theatre is well suited to the musical comedy revue, Oh Coward! Alas! two of the three performers are less so, admittedly. as they as males have to bear direct comparison with the Master himself.
Roderick Cook imitates him, and that won't do; Jamie Ross doesn't try to imitate him and hasn't the necessary style, as becomes obvious in the elocution lesson of Nina from Argentina. Only Geraldine McEwan brings her own style, and succeeds.
Nevertheless, it is a pleasant evening's diversion, although one cannot resist speculating what it might have been like had two personalities in their own right taken part, say Dickie Henderson and Kenneth More.