Interview with Entertaining Mr Sloane Director Michael Cabot

Posted on 14 April 2014

In the interview below, Director Michael Cabot, reveals the inspirations behind his production of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane, which runs at the Belgrade Theatre from Thurs 3 – Sat 5 July.

What made you decide to stage Entertaining Mr Sloane now?
I first came across Joe Orton’s work at university and fell in love with his writing, both the plays and his diaries. I directed Entertaining Mr Sloane for the first time in 2003 and have great memories of that production, but I felt the time was right to have another look at the play. For me as a director, it’s a very rewarding process, being able to revisit a script you’ve worked on before, in this case with some of the same actors. 2014 is the 50th Anniversary of the play, so it seems the perfect time to revive the piece.

What is it you like about Orton as a writer?
I think, first and foremost, I love his irreverence. Orton was very much seen as an anti-establishment figure, but while cheeky, he was never gratuitous. There’s an honesty that sits at the very core of his writing. There is so much more to him than the obvious comedy. His plays are wonderfully layered and full of hidden detail. He also has a firm, clear and intricate grasp of character, which is a pleasure for actors to work with.

Orton had a troubled life and was killed in a sensational manner. Do you think this should have any bearing when working on his plays?
Inevitably, because his career was so short, there is a tendency to look beyond his surviving work for more answers about the man. His diaries give an insight into the way he lived his life and how this fed into his work, but the plays definitely stand alone. I think though, that it’s quite hard not to relate to Orton’s life in his work. More than anything, the sheer energy of the man comes off the page, at almost every moment.

You’ve worked with all four of the cast in previous productions – has this been of benefit to the rehearsal process?
I think that there is a lovely shorthand in place when you’ve worked with actors before. The early stages of rehearsals with new company members is quite often a ‘getting to know you’ phase. When you know everyone in the room, you get straight down to business. There is an honesty and more immediate sense of trust in the room and the company perhaps feel more able to ‘play’.

Do you feel that Entertaining Mr Sloane is relevant to a modern audience?
I think great writing is always relevant. Orton’s humour, although very much of its time, has a wonderful universality. A good joke is a good joke, irrespective of the decade in which it is set or written. Most importantly, he wrote strong, colourful characters with depth and nuance, so an audience can both quickly identify and engage with them on a very personal level. As a director, I think it is important to treat every classic text as if it were a new play, to question the writer’s motives and to scrupulously examine the characters’ intentions. With Orton, you always feel that you are in the hands of a master craftsman.

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