Sloane entertains but doesn't sparkle

26 February 2008

Entertaining Mr Sloane, ADC Theatre, 19-23, 19:45

Three Stars

Reviewer Rhiannon Easterbrook

Britain never got over the ‘50s, when those strange creatures, the teenagers, arrived with their loud music, sex and flamboyant hair. We’ve been in a panic about them ever since, especially now that they’re all stabbing each other outside schools, flick knife in one hand, crack pipe in the other. What, then, can a forty-four year-old play catalysed by a dangerous youth offer us? Quite a lot, actually. It’s a sharp and linguistically stunning play that, when done well, unsettles the audience as much as it amuses.

The play isn’t really about young people, though, and it’s not even really about sex, despite what you may guess from the publicity mentioning Orton’s “sexual deviancy”. It is about those British favourites: class; hypocrisy and control. Fundamentally, this is a powerplay that takes place in an average, lower-middle class lounge, which, in this production, is exquisitely rendered. The audience, along with the representative of the older generation, the helpless father, watch the advantage shift from the beautiful, potent Sloane, to the middle-aged siblings, Kath and Ed, who possess evidence that could get him hanged.

Unfortunately, the performances compromised the essential transition of the play. Adam Drew’s Sloane rarely demonstrated the assured sexuality appropriate for someone who is fit but knows it. He started off looking a bit confused, got a bit angry in the middle and then, yes, looked a bit bemused again. Lucy Marks and Ade O’Brien as the brother and sister certainly generated considerable manic energy, as they hurled inanities across the stage, but started at such a pitch that there was nowhere for them to go, resulting in an early climax and a second half that was somewhat limp and short on emotional depth. This could have been affected by first-night jitters, however.

What the production lacked in darkness, it made up for in humour. Marks, too attractive to play Kath, hilariously switched between doting surrogate “Mama” of Sloane and harsh taskmaster of her own father, convincingly portrayed by Adam Hollingworth. Some lovely bits of directing ensured that the farcical elements were deftly handled; while Drew’s silent communing with the audience was a welcome contrast to O’Brien’s accomplished verbosity and made us complicit in the horror.

In the end, this production is a bit of a tease: it provides many enjoyable moments but, frustratingly, doesn’t quite follow through on its promise. Kids today, eh?