Joe Orton’s reputation in the 1960s was built on plays designed to shock, satirising the Establishment and reflecting the mood of the era.
The Players, at Lowther Pavilion, worked hard to capture the spirit of his 1964 black comedy in which the Catholic church, the civil service and the police are the principle targets.
Andy Cooke, always watchable in exaggerated comedy roles, leads the way as Inspector Truscott with a ‘‘ello ‘ello ‘ello’ attitude and accent, together the compulsory mac and pipe.
Helen Barrow, as the scheming nurse Fay, hesitates neatly and then speeds up as she develops her constantly changing story, while Ian Edmundson as a frequently bewildered and new widower Mr McLeavy makes the most of some telling lines about our attitudes to death.
The audience often chuckled, but any sense of shock at the material has been entirely dissipated over six decades.
This exposes the unconvincing characterisation and an implausible rather than farcical plot about stolen money stored in an occupied coffin.
Director Jeff Redfern keeps the dialogue moving along swiftly, as a shorter second half delivers more laughter, but no dramatic moments.
The Players’ next production in March, Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy, will provide stronger fare.