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Review: Corpses and coffins in Loot, Park Theatre

This review contains potential spoilers
. There is an open coffin on the stage. I have a thing about bodies in boxes and its freaking me out a little bit - that's no dummy body. Fortunately once the play starts, its pace is such that it works as a distraction until there is something else that makes me squirm in my seat - but I'll come onto that.

Joe Orton's dark farce takes place on the day of Mrs McLeavy's funeral. Her nurse, Mrs McMahon (Sinead Matthews), is a devout Catholic but her motives are more financial. Hal McLeavy (Sam Frenchum) and his friend Dennis (Calvin Demba) also have their own motives for being interested in the funeral - the bank next door to the funeral parlour (where Dennis works) has been robbed. Throw in a straight-laced and gullible widower (Ian Redford) and a suspicious but unscrupulous copper (Christopher Fulford) and you've got a play of scheming, manipulation, dodging and evasion.

There is great farcical comedy here as a game of cat and mouse ensues with Mr McLeavy a pawn in the middle. It is brilliantly executed but for the fact that Mrs McLeavy's body does come in for quite a bit of manhandling which is where the seat squirming comes in. It's a personal thing and I'm sure doesn't bother everyone in the same way, but I find it hard laughing when an old lady's body (remember this isn't a dummy) is being stripped and then stuffed unceremoniously into a cupboard. Full marks to Anah Rudin who plays the corpse though (she got a cheer at the curtain call).

Putting all that to one side, what really makes this play is something beyond the surface laughter, something that is deeper, darker and satirical. We laugh at how the policeman tricks and manipulates but it is really a corruption of power and trust. I didn't think I would be drawing parallels with Oscar-buzz film Detroit while I was watching it but I was - I'd seen the film, which is based on true events about a police raid on a motel during riots in the late 1960s, just a couple of days before.

In a similar vein, Mrs McMahon shields her true face behind a veil of religious respectability - she is superbly played by Sinead Matthew's, so quick and smart she's almost admirable.

There is plenty to enjoy and think about in Loot and lots of laughs, corpse man-handling aside, I'm giving it five stars. Catch it at the Park Theatre until September 24. It's two hours including an interval.