by Lynn on July 27, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

 The following reviews were broadcast on Friday, July 26, 2013, CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, CIUT 89.5 FM. ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until August 17, 2013, and BEYOND THE FARM SHOW at the Blyth Festival until August 17.

 The Host was Phil Taylor.


1)   Good Friday morning, it’s time for our theatre fix with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. Hi Lynn


Hi Phil


What’s on tap this morning?


Two shows. The first is ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE, by Joe Orton, the wild-man of British theatre.

 And BEYOND THE FARM SHOW by the Collective of actors, a sweet play from the Blyth Festival that plays homage to the original FARM SHOW of 41 years ago.


2) Let’s start with Joe Orton the wild-man. Why do you refer to him like that?


He was born in Leicester, England—working class British town- in 1933 and died brutally in 1967. He went to acting school and met his partner Kenneth Halliwell there. Halliwell had money so together they worked little. They had loads of fun defacing many books from the library with pornographic photos, sketches etc. and were caught, fined and sent to prison! Those books are now the biggest draw to the Islington library, where they are the library’s museum.

 In prison Orton was toughened and developed his cynicism towards the upper classes, authority, government etc. And he started to write plays.

 He wrote only three for the theatre (with some radio plays). ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE was his first play—1964. He sent it to Peggy Ramsey—the most illustrious agent of the time–and she took him on and was instrumental in getting it produced. It caused a stir. Lots of accolades and criticism.

 And the fame was too much for Ken Halliwell so in a fit of peak he bashed Orton’s brains out with a hammer and then killed himself. Rough and wild, eh?


3) Rough indeed. Is ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE rough?


It’s a cynical, black comedy full of danger and sexual innuendo. Mr. Sloane is a young tough in a tight sweater and jeans who comes on to both men and women to his advantage. He rents a room from Kath, a lonely middle-aged woman who lives in the house with her almost blind, doddery father named Kemp. She has a brother, Ed, who is both fastidious and menacing.

 Mr. Sloane would be the same age as the son Kath had to give up when he was a baby because she was unmarried. There is lots of suggestion that Mr. Sloane might be Kath’s long-lost son. Which makes it awkward because Kath comes on to Mr. Sloane and he doesn’t rebuff her. In fact he reciprocates with ‘interesting’ results. A relationship forms.

 Ed hires Mr. Sloane to be his driver. A relationship forms there too. Kemp feels he’s seen Mr. Sloane before. There is a suggestion he killed Kemp’s former boss. Lots of unsavoury things going on in that house. All done with a sharp, dark humour.

 At time it seems like an Abbott and Costello routine, with Mr. Sloane giving out the lines and Kath being the straight person adding the humour unbeknownst to her.


4) Does the production serve the play?


For the most part. It’s directed with skill by Brendan Healy. He knows how to establish the sexual tensions between characters. The deep-eyed stares; one character positioned close to another with a come hither look. Kath in her slip, knitting, trying to engage Mr. Sloane and jumping on him at the first opportunity. It all revolves around Mr. Sloane and how both Kath and Ed try to entertain him and vie for his favours.

 As Mr. Sloane, David Beazely has short white-blond hair, wears black; looks tough and scary and is very confident but with a veneer of sincerity.  He’s nosey. He knows how to find a person’s weakness and plays on it. I can believe he would kill someone unprovoked.

 As Kath, Fiona Reid is a flutter of twitters, tics, a tight smile, and very accommodating to Mr. Sloane.

 As Ed, Stuart Hughes is fastidious in his suit and tie with his own sense of danger and a touch of effeminacy—I loved that. Not overt but subtle. It’s a pose with a foot slightly in front of the other, bent at the knee; the arms close to the body.

 And as Kemp, Michael Simpson is all agitated at this new stranger, trying to tell his daughter to beware and being ignored. Ed and Kemp are estranged, so Ed is no help to the helpless father.

 I do have a problem with Yannik Larivée’s set.


5) How so?


The theatre is configured in the round. The audience is on all sides. The set is in the middle. It’s Kath’s front room. The furniture is chintzy, all red, and it looks like a brothel, not that I would know about such a place, but I can imagine.

 The problem is that there is always some furniture blocking our view and that’s annoying. I know that director Brendan Healy likens it to a boxing ring where the characters fight. But in that case of a boxing ring you can see clearly. Not in this case and not seeing clearly is annoying.


6) And now for something completely different. Tell us about Beyond the Farm Show. What’s that about.


In 1972, Paul Thompson, then artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto, took a group of actors to farm country around Blyth and Clinton Ontario. Their aim was to talk to the farmers; discover their way of life; hear their stories and recollections; how they farmed, and then came back to talk about their discoveries and create a show. The result was The Farm Show, one of the seminal works of Canadian theatre, involving improve, story-telling and play creation.

 Now 41 years later, Paul Thompson’s daughter Severn Thompson has gone to the same area with five actors who went around to the farming community, the Mennonites as well, to hear their stories, their lives and to see if times have changed.


7) Have times changed?


I don’t get that sense.  The farmers and that community always think these city folks are cause for laughter without being cruel.  They are sweet, accommodating and hilarious in their watching the city folk try to navigate a pasture with cow poop.

 They are unabashed when talking of the muck and hard work and silly things that happen through a day. The actor gets the brunt of the humour but they take it in stride and with grace.

 There are moments in which both the farmers and the city folk are joined with the wonder of being on a farm; with the birth of an animal; and with the appreciation each has for the other.

 A scene with a spare talking Mennonite woman, cradling her new born, is quite moving when she tells a woman from the city of her life there and how she coped when her young daughter died.  A scene in which a city fellah was trying to catch chickens is funny. Goats are both adorable and friendly.

 The cast of five: Marion Day, Catherine Fitch, Tony Munch, Jamie Robinson and Rylan Wilkie, all have the wide-eyed wonder of actors discovering the country and its inhabitants.

 And it’s quite touching seeing the respect each has for the other.  Beyond the Farm Show is a sweet, touching, delicate show and the Blyth Festival is the perfect place to begin its life.


Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

Entertaining Mr. Sloane plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until August 17.

 Beyond the Farm Show plays at the Blyth Festival until August 17.


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