Poster: 1984 production starring Leonard Rossiter as Truscott. Photo: 2002 McCarter Theatre production.

LOOT - 3 OF 3


After the initial failure of Loot, Ramsey rashly promised a London production within six months. Hope appeared in the figure of Oscar Lewenstein who bought the options on Loot in January 1966.

In April a revised version of the play was staged in Manchester. Orton had cut 651 lines and made Truscott the central character throughout the play, making him a more sinister and violent figure, drawing on his experiences when arrested. (Read more about this production here)

The revised version was a rousing success, with the Daily Telegraph pronouncing it ‘very funny’. Orton left on his second trip to Morocco the next day but his good mood quickly dissipated. Ramsey could still not drum up interest in a London production. On June 18th Orton wrote to Ramsey from Tangiers:

‘.. if the Loot option runs out in January with no sign of the play being put on … I shall throw the play on the fire. And I shan’t write a third stage play. I shall earn my living on TV.’

Orton relented on his return and Lewenstein arranged for Loot to open on 27th September at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre, an ‘off West End’ theatre. Both Ramsey and Orton were sceptical about the production and thought the direction forced and the sets dull. To their surprise the critics loved the play. The Sunday Telegraph wrote: ‘the most genuinely quick witted, pungent and sprightly entertainment by a new young British playwright for a decade.’

Orton’s quick witted and sparkling dialogue had won the critics over and overcome the weaknesses of the production, as he was quick to point out in an interview with the Evening Standard.

‘I have many vices, but false modesty is not one of them. The best thing about Loot is the quality of the writing.’

Loot transferred to the Criterion Theatre in West End proper on November 1st but struggled to get an audience. This was to turn around when Loot was awarded the London Evening Standard award for Best Play of 1966 on January 11th 1967.

Photograph © T Charles Erickson with kind permission
Images: Courtesy The Orton Estate
  Text © Leicester City Council / Orton Quotes: © The Orton Estate  

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