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Review: Loot at Wanganui Repertory Theatre

Loot is a two act play by English playwright Joe Orton and lives up to its description as a ‘dark comedy’. It mocks the Catholic Church, family relationships, social attitudes to death and the integrity of the police force. It is a witty play, not a slap stick comedy and the witticisms remain with you long after the play. Most of them are said by Inspector Truscott who is played with great finesse by Mark Rayner. In response to a comment that nurse Fay McMahon makes that “The British police force used to be run by men of integrity,” Truscott says “That is a mistake which has been rectified.”

The play starts with grieving Catholic husband, played very well by the adaptable actor Chris McKenzie, being propositioned by his late wife’s nurse, who, as the play reveals, has been involved in the deaths of many previous husbands. The situation gets worse as it is revealed that the coffin is being used by her amoral son and his criminal friend as a hiding place for the stolen loot, while the corpse is being stored in the wardrobe.

The play ends with Truscott, not only demanding 25 percent of the loot but also arranging for the arrest of the only honest person, the grieving but naive husband McLeavy.

The standard of acting is uniformly high. Mark Rayner not only has the role of Truscott but is also the director of Loot. His mannerisms as the inspector – rocking back and forth on his heels, his bowler hat, his angled stances – made him distinctive and appealing, without becoming too much of an Inspector Clouseau figure.

Linda Kerfoot excels as nurse Fay McMahon, even making her predatory character almost loveable. Mike Pyefinch as son Hal and Troy Taylor as Dennis were suitable gormless, amoral characters and Carey Knapp makes a good impression as Meadows the police constable, in a cameo role. My only reservation is about the ‘message’ of the play. It is easy to pour scorn on the church, the police and other aspects of society, but Orton does not go beyond gentle contempt to develop a moral positive. Loot runs until May 11 at the Wanganui Repertory Theatre. Tickets are available from the Royal Wanganui Opera House and at the door. – Doug Davidson

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Dennis (Troy Taylor), Fay McMahon (Linda Kerfoot) and Hal (Mike Pyefinch).