Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Entertaining Mr. Sloane

David Beazeley and Fiona Reid (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Entertainment in Excess
Soulpepper’s Sloane a dark and campy treat
by Christian Baines

There’s a fine line in Joe Orton’s plays, somewhere between British farce and the blackest of black comedies. Productions that find it are rare, but golden, and Brendan Healy’s take on Entertaining Mr Sloane is among them. Gleefully embracing camp excess, but always with one eye on Orton’s darker observations and the morally ambiguous nature of its characters, this Sloane is brisk, acerbic and very, very funny.

Fiona Reid deserves no small credit for this, as her Kath is simply delightful, both as an object of empathy and ridicule. She is in many ways charged with holding the other players together and Reid’s balance of comedy and pitiful neediness equips the show with just enough emotional gravitas to keep the other cast members in orbit. David Beazely’s gravel-voiced Sloane’s accent and mannerisms take a little getting used to. Nonetheless, he hits all the right peaks, and his distinctly cockney spin on the character makes a lot more sense once the overall aesthetic of Healy’s production emerges - as it particularly does with Stuart Hughes’s Ed. 

Like Beazely, Hughes is a little jarring at first, but very quickly evolves into a fun and shamelessly campy take on the popular stock characters that dominated British comedy in the 1960’s. And since the cast is so well connected to the play’s darker leanings, this never strays too far over the top. Rather, Hughes pushes Ed’s facade (and let’s be honest, his entire character is based on pretence) to its limit, until the time comes for his cast mates to tear it apart.  

Healy tones down the violence and sexual content, allowing the absurdities and menacing aspects within Orton’s script do the work. This approach means the jokes rarely fail to land, and Sloane can be appreciated for the dark, brilliant satire it is.

Entertaining Mr Sloane plays at Soulpepper Theatre until August 17 August 24

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