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A Very Entertaining Mr Sloane

This is a gem of a part for an actress. Alison Steadman joins a succession of memorable past performers of the role, including Beryl Reid, Sheila Hancock and, in her pre Allo Allo days, Carmen Silvera.

Steadman, who specialises in the comedic, larger-than-life role, fits comfortably into the portrayal of the love-hungry, middle-aged nymphet.

She is ably assisted by Clive Francis and Brian Pringle, a trio of dominant stage presence's, who overwhelm the young Mr Sloane, played with fitting self-effacement by Andrew Howard.

This was one of the most important plays of the sixties which shocked and amused audiences with its startling story and wicked humour.

Much of the shock value has been lost in the 36 years since Joe Orton's play was first performed at London's Art Centre Club, with overt sex and homosexual leanings now 'acceptable'.

This is no bad thing, as it allows you to savour the lasting features: the subtle undercurrents, the ever-fresh  humour and the joy of life bubbling up through the surface slime.

Modern audiences have come to expect an appropriate 'flash' from the mature seductress; and Steadman does not disappoint, as she appears before the hapless Mr Sloane in a see-through negligee.

Throughout the play, she adds much entertainment with her random switching between a voice of cockney cackle to a variation of Mrs Slocombe posh.

The set design mirrors the stagnant, claustrophobic lives of the characters and the lighting is used to great effect to echo the swings in mood.

This is an outstanding theatrical event and should not be missed.

Until: Saturday 21 October

Running time 2 hr 20 min

Tickets from 6 to 18

Box office 024 7655 3055

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CWN / Arts & Entertainment / Belgrade Theatre / 18 Oct 00

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