Entertaining Mr Sloane

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A: Joe Orton Pf: 1964, London Pb: 1964 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Living room, England, 1960s C: 3m, 1fSloane, a rootless handsome 19-year-old, is offered a home by an older woman, Kath, in her house built on a rubbish dump. After looking round, Sloane and she engage in innuendo-filled conversation, as they gradually seduce each other. With a characteristic mixture of predatory sexuality, maternal protectiveness, and English middle-class morality, Kath tells him: ‘I'll be your mamma. I need to be loved. Gently. Oh! I shall be so ashamed in the morning.’ Her brother Ed appears and offers Sloane a job as chauffeur. Ed, a homosexual, tries to seduce Sloane as well, but Sloane tantalizes him by pretending to be a virgin. Sloane begins to dominate Kath and Ed by playing them off against each other. However, Ed's puritanical father Kemp recognizes Sloane as the killer of his former boss, a photographer specializing in pornographic images. In order to silence Kemp, Sloane murders him too. Ed and the now pregnant Kath gain the upper hand: they blackmail Sloane into agreeing to be their lover for six months at a time each.

A: Joe Orton Pf: 1964, London Pb: 1964 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Living room, England, 1960s C: 3m, 1f

This, Orton's first full-length play, has similarities with Pinter's The Caretaker: an outsider coming into a home, attempting to manipulate the two occupants but ending up the victim. The major differences are in Orton's language, ‘a combination of elegance and crudity’, dialogue that generates ‘a sort of seismic disturbance’, and in the shocking juxtaposition of comic wit with violent action and immoral behaviour. In the process, Orton unmasks the hypocrisies of contemporary British society in a disturbingly cruel manner. As the critic John Bull astutely observes: ‘We are invited to enjoy the games but never to feel sympathy for the players.’

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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Joe Orton (1933—1967) playwright

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