November 5-15, 1969
Notes on Loot
When Loot was first presented in 1966, the London critics saw it very much as a pocket parable about the state of contemporary Britain, as see by its disillusioned youth. The action of the play takes place in a traditional front parlour, stuffy and conventional, whicih houses a coffin containing the nameless body of a woman. (The Monarchy?) The characters voice extremely respectable beiliefs but their real preoccupations are shown to be money, crime, sex and violence, with just a dash of sadism and necrophilia hanging around in the background!
Of course the situations in the play are absurd and taken to extremes, but even so Orton manages to take a swipe at the smugness of some of the unquestioned assumptions of th British about themselves; for instance, he attacks their (justifiable) pride in the police force. The policeman has always been a safe friendly dependable figure – one thinks of the Pirates of Penzance or the heroes of those modern television series '2-cars' and 'Softly, Softly.' But perhaps their fair-mindedness and incorruptibility should not be taken for granted, he seems to be saying.
He attacks those who ruthlessly follow their own self interest, in terms of hard cash, but who manage to reconcile this with high moral beliefs – in the play they happen to be Catholics, but only because Orton was one.
And perhaps most of all, though obliquely, he attacks the public appetite for sensationalism – those who protest in shocked tones about the state of society, while rushing out for their 'News of the World' each Sunday, to read about sex crimes, gory murders, or the the revelations of ex-Nazis. (Christine Keeler's memoirs are currently running).
So, all in all, hypocrisy and smugness seem to be the main targes, and perhaps Orton is trying to recommend a house cleaning.
– Elsa Bolam