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A: Joe Orton Pf: 1965, Cambridge Pb: 1967 G: Farce in 2 acts S: Living room, England, 1960s C: 5m, 1fHal McLeavy exploits the fact that his friend Dennis drives a hearse for an undertaker: together they rob the bank next to the funeral parlour and have an ideal getaway vehicle. Hal's mother has just died, and is lying embalmed at home in her coffin. Fay, the nurse who was attending her, is a sexy young thing, already widow to seven deceased husbands. She now has designs on Hal's father, Mr McLeavy, but Dennis seduces her by offering her marriage and (allegedly) greater financial security. Inspector Truscott of Scotland Yard, on the trail of Hal and Dennis, comes to the house, but since he does not have a warrant, poses as a Water Board official. Hal and Dennis, in a panic to hide the loot, remove Hal's mother from her coffin, lock her in a cupboard, and stash their money in the coffin. When Truscott discovers Mrs McLeavy's corpse, the lads pretend that it is a dummy which Fay uses for dressmaking. To buy Fay's silence, they have to promise her a third share of the stolen cash, which is now on its way to the cemetery. Truscott now deduces that Fay poisoned Mrs McLeavy, but, unfortunately for him, the evidence in the form of her internal organs preserved in a casket is destroyed when the hearse has a crash. Truscott nevertheless manages to discover what has happened to the loot and has to be cut in for a quarter-share. When Mr McLeavy finds out what is going on, he threatens to expose them all, so Truscott has him arrested for the robbery, and the others agree to testify against him. Fay accepts Dennis's proposal of marriage.

A: Joe Orton Pf: 1965, Cambridge Pb: 1967 G: Farce in 2 acts S: Living room, England, 1960s C: 5m, 1f

Winner of both the Evening Standard and Plays and Players awards for the best play of 1966, Loot was Orton's most popular drama. As in Entertaining Mr Sloane, Loot is set in a shabby English lower middle-class environment, with its self-seeking manipulation, hypocritical posturing, sexual tensions, and corrupt police. Lest this should become weighed down with social criticism, Orton creates a ‘black farce’, in which the conventional hiding of a body becomes particularly grotesque, since it is that of the mother of one of the leading characters. Some critics were repelled by Orton's cynicism, others revelled in it as a window into the carefree immorality of the ‘swinging sixties’; the most perceptive recognized that, in the best Jonsonian tradition, Orton was a bitter moralist, who had personally suffered from the twisted values of British morality, which confronted him daily as a homosexual and which led to his imprisonment for six months for defacing books from a public library.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).

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Joe Orton (1933—1967) playwright

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