Written by Joe Orton

Thursday 5th July to Saturday 7th July and Thursday 12th July to Saturday 14th July 1979

Directed by Paul Morris

Nurse Fay, already with seven marriages behind her, has her sights set on wedding number eight to her late patient's husband. But when bungling Inspector Truscott, cunningly disguised as the man from the Metropolitan Water Board, arrives looking for the thieves, secrets from Fay's murky past come to light. Keeping the loot and the body away from the inspector involves everyone in an increasingly tangled web of conspiracy and deceit.

AuthorJoe Orton

Joe Orton (1933 - 1967)

Joe Orton was born in Leicester and his childhood was not a particularly happy one. Although not especially poverty stricken, his childhood could nevertheless be described as drab, uninspiring and violent. A clever child, young Joe passed the 11+ exam to go to grammar school but persistent ill health meant that his schooling was sporadic and he failed his exams. Orton set his sights on attending RADA after enjoying his experience on-stage in amateur dramatics. At the age of 18, he joined the Academy where he met Kenneth Halliwell, the man who was to become his friend, his collaborator, his lover and tragically, his murderer.

Orton and Halliwell wrote a number of unsuccessful works together but achieved bizarre notoriety in 1962 when they were convicted and imprisoned for the seemingly innocuous crime of defacing library books. The court passed down a harsh, 6-month sentence for what was ostensibly a prank. However, in an age where homosexuality was still illegal, the fact that the prank included pasting semi-erotic pictures on to covers of what they considered to be 'very dull' books probably influenced the judiciary. Orton later commented that they had been persecuted harshly because they had been discovered to be gay men openly living together.

While for Halliwell, prison was a soul-destroying experience, for Orton, it seemed to be the making of the playwright in him. In his own words, "I tried writing before I went into the nick...but it was no good. Being in the nick brought detachment to my writing...suddenly it worked."

After a number of unsuccessful minor works, Entertaining Mr Sloane was Orton's first major script but the play received mixed response when it opened in 1963. In later venues however, it was voted Best New British Play by Variety's London Critics, moved to Broadway and Orton had his first taste of major success.

In 1966, Orton began again to write a diary (something he had started earlier in life). These later chapters, whilst being a frank and open account of his life, are also well-crafted literary works. They record, among other things the difficulties he experienced in his relationship with Halliwell, but give no clue that the nature of his death at the age of 34, could have been foreseen. The facts of the matter are that in August 1967, Halliwell killed him by repeatedly hitting him about the head with a hammer. Halliwell then took his own life with an overdose and 2 lives and a promising career were brought to an untimely end.

Joe Orton's published work consists of three stage plays, four short radio/TV plays, a screenplay and a novel.


The play is an extremely dark farce which satirises the Roman Catholic Church, social attitudes to death, and the integrity of the police force and was Orton's third major production. 'Loot' follows the fortunes of two young thieves, Hal and Dennis. Together they rob the bank next to the funeral parlour where Dennis works and return to Hal's home to hide the money. Hal's mother has just died and the money is hidden in her coffin while her body keeps on appearing around the house. Upon the arrival of Inspector Truscott the plot turns topsy turvy as Hal and Dennis try to keep him off their trail.

The first run, starring a miscast Kenneth Williams as Truscott, gained terrible reviews and flopped at the box office. However, after substantial rewrites it gathered momentum, awards and notoriety when it was revived the following year. The play has since gained a reputation as a comic masterpiece and has had many revivals - some notable for all the wrong reasons. In 1984 Paul McGann accidentally dropped the corpse into the stalls on the opening night at the Ambassadors Theatre and Leonard Rossiter, an acclaimed Truscott, died suddenly of heart disease in his dressing room after it had transferred to the Lyric.

Described as a "tour de force of bad taste and high farce", 'Loot' is considered as irreverent, amoral and bizarre. Orton thought even more highly of it: "I have a lot of vices but false modesty is not one of them. And the best thing about Loot is the quality of the writing." Tampering with the conventions of popular farce, Orton creates a hectic world and examines English attitudes and perceptions in the mid twentieth century.

The Bench Production

Loot poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. Bench Theatre staged it again in 1990 under the direction of Vincent Adams.


McLeavyTerry Cattermole
FayIngrid Corrigan
HalJim Charlton
DennisAlan Knight
TruscottTony Czapp
MeadowsRay Osborne


Director Paul Morris
Stage Manager Sharon Morris
Assistant Stage Managers Jill Sawyer, Paul Brodrick
Lighting Anthony Elliott, Brian Sweatman
Sound Brian Sweatman
Costumes Robbie Cattermole
Set Design John Wright
Set Construction Havant College Students
Props Shirley Woodmansey

Programme Notes

The Summer season is here and finds the Bench with activities ranging from fund raising to community work. A disco and jumble sale for the 'Waiting for Godot' trip to the Edinburgh fringe has brought us close to our target of £400 and it is hoped to exceed this figure with the help of further activities.


The NewsF.N.

Good group - bad choice

Occasionally, a good amateur dramatic company makes a bad choice of a play for production. No matter what efforts the company makes with the play, the bottom eventually falls out. Such was the case with last night's production of 'Loot' presented by the Bench Theatre at Havant Arts Centre. The Bench usually presents solid imaginative performances. But Mr Joe Orton's black comedy about a chaotic funeral in which stolen bank money is stashed in a coffin just did not work. The talents of the cast were impeded by the script. The play was laden with dialogue which so hard at being clever it was pretentious. The main problem was the absence of conviction and character development in the first act which started things off on the wrong foot. The cast delivered the lines as if the vocabulary was too much to cope with and there was a great deal of standing about and staring. A few gallant efforts came in the second act, particularly on the part of Terry Cattermole (McLeavy) and Tony Czapp (Truscott) who helped the production limp along. But the floors in the disjointed dialogue could not be mended. Everything seemed to be against the cast including the set, which was cluttered and unmanageable. There was an attempt to handle the difficult problem of faking a corpse on stage which presented a huge credibility gap as the bemused young criminal carted the body of a dead woman around as if it were weightless. Lighting, or the lack of it, hindered the performance. In trying to keep the play fast-paced all lighting design seemed to be overlooked. The result was a wordy production with little spontaneity. There are further performances tonight and tomorrow at 7.30.

The News, 6th July 1979

Letters to the Editor

On Saturday I spent a very enjoyable evening watching the Bench Theatre's production of 'Loot', an hilarious black comedy which was was performed at the Havant Arts Centre. I went in spite of The News critic who evidently had not enjoyed the play.

V. Robinson (Mrs) Beechwood Avenue, Waterlooville, 14th July 1979

Having seen the Havant Bench Theatre's production of Loot, I am left wondering if your critic (The News, Friday July 6) really did see the same play. If Saturday's performance is an example of the group's activities, then the criticisms were unjustified. The play was very well performed with a good set when one considered the small stage area. I am a staunch believer in supporting out local amateur drama group which puts on very good plays throughout the year and unworthy criticism in this case was uncalled for. Surely we should be encouraging groups such as Bench Theatre, not disillusioning them or their supporters who get a very good evening's entertainment at very little cost.

A Moreman (Mrs), Wendover Road, Havant, 14th July 1979

Production Photographs