Entertaining Mr Sloane

Entertaining Mr Sloane is a play by the English playwright Joe Orton.[1] It was first produced in London at the New Arts Theatre on 6 May 1964 and transferred to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre on 29 June 1964.[2]

Entertaining Mr Sloane
Methuen Drama edition cover, 2001
Written byJoe Orton
  • Sloane, a young, good-looking psychopath
  • Kath, a middle-aged landlady
  • Ed, Kath's brother
  • Kemp, Kath and Ed's father
Date premiered6 May 1964
Place premieredNew Arts Theatre
London, England
SubjectA landlady and her brother entice a psychopathic young man into sexual liaisons
GenreBlack comedy
SettingA house on the edge of a rubbish dump

Plot summary

Act 1

Mr Sloane is a young man looking for a place to board, who happens by the home of Kath, a middle-aged landlady whose home is on the outskirts of a rubbish dump. Kath is eager to have Mr Sloane as a tenant at her home, which she shares with her nearly blind father, Kemp. In getting to know Mr Sloane, Kath is open with Mr Sloane about a previous relationship she had, which led to her bearing a child, whom her brother insisted on her giving up for adoption as it was conceived out of wedlock. Mr Sloane reveals he is himself an orphan, though vague about his parents' death, except that they "passed away together". Kath's father has an immediate distrust of Mr Sloane, believing he is the same man who killed his employer some years earlier. After an altercation between Kemp and Sloane, resulting in Sloane being stabbed in the leg, Kath begins to make somewhat subtle advances toward the young man. When Mr Sloane attempts to reciprocate, Kath warns him facetiously not to betray his trust. Kathy's brother Ed arrives soon after to find the visitor staying with his sister, much to his dismay. Kemp has an estranged relationship with his son as he found him to be "committing some kind of felony in the bedroom" as a teenager. Despite Ed's initial opposition to Mr Sloane staying with his sister, after speaking with Sloane, Ed eventually relents and even goes so far as to offer him a job as his chauffeur. As Sloane recovers from his injury earlier in the evening, Kath returns wearing a transparent negligee and seemingly seduces Mr Sloane as the lights go down and Act One ends.

Act 2

The action resumes "some months later" and begins with Mr Sloane recounting an evening in which a young woman gave him her telephone number. Kath ambiguously hints at her jealousy, before ultimately revealing she is pregnant and concerned that her brother will strongly disapprove. Ed arrives soon after and discovers that Mr Sloane had taken his car out joyriding the night before with his friends. Upon finding out that they also had a woman with them, Ed divulges that he feels women are crude, and misleading. Ed advises Sloane to pack his things as he will be on call as his assistant at all hours. When Sloane leaves the room to pack, Kemp mildly attempts to reconcile with his son, and conveys that Kath and Sloane have been sleeping together and believes Kath is now pregnant. When confronted, Sloane confirms he has been sleeping with Kath, but claims she "threw herself" at him. A short time later, Ed departs to buy cigarettes, and Kemp returns to confront Sloane as his employer's murderer. Sloane eventually attacks Kemp, resulting in his death.

Act 3

Upon finding his dead father, Ed is initially insistent that justice be served and Sloane be turned over to the police. However, Sloane persuades Ed to fabricate a story to make the death appear an accident, in exchange for his servitude. When Kath discovers the dead body, she is apprehensive to stray from the truth especially given Sloane's intention to go and live with her brother. Sloane finds himself in a predicament: if he stays with Kath, Ed will report the murder to the authorities, and vice versa if he chooses to leave with Ed. Ultimately, a compromise is reached that will result in the pair "sharing" Mr. Sloane a few months at a time.


The play premiered in the West End in 1964, thanks to the financial support of Terence Rattigan, who had seen the play at the New Arts Theatre, rated it highly and put up £3,000 in sponsorship.[3] It was directed by Patrick Dromgoole and starred Madge Ryan as Kath, Dudley Sutton as Sloane, Charles Lamb as Kemp, and Peter Vaughan as Ed. It was designed by Timothy O'Brien, with costumes supervised by Tazeena Firth.

The Broadway production, directed by Alan Schneider, opened at the Lyceum Theatre on 12 October 1965 and closed after 13 performances. It starred Sheila Hancock as Kath, Dudley Sutton as Sloane, Lee Montague as Ed, and George Turner as Kemp. William Ritman designed the sets and costumes.[4]

The play was revived as part of the Joe Orton Festival at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Directed by Roger Croucher, it opened on 17 April 1975 and subsequently transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre in July. It starred Beryl Reid as Kath, Malcolm McDowell as Sloane, James Ottaway as Kemp, and Ronald Fraser as Ed. Harry H. Corbett later took over as Ed and Kenneth Cranham as Sloane. John Gunter designed the sets and Deirdre Clancy supervised the costumes. It closed in October 1975.[5][6]

A subsequent London production at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in 1981 was directed by Kenneth Williams and starred Barbara Windsor as Kath.[7] Windsor reprised the role for a national tour in 1993.[8]

In 1985 Greg Hersov directed a production at the Royal Exchange, Manchester with Adam Ant as Sloane, Sylvia Sims as Kath and James Maxwell as Ed.[9][10]

The Roundabout Theatre Company revived the play in 2005 under the direction of Scott Ellis. It starred Alec Baldwin as Ed, Chris Carmack as Sloane, Jan Maxwell as Kath, and Richard Easton as Kemp. The design team included Allen Moyer (sets), Michael Krass (costumes), Ken Posner (lights), and John Gromada (original music and sound).[11]

In 2007, the Melbourne Theatre Company staged a production at the Fairfax Theatre in the Melbourne Arts Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Directed by Simon Phillips, it starred Richard Piper as Ed, Ben Guerens as Sloane, Amanda Muggleton as Kath, and Bob Hornery as Kemp. It was designed by Shaun Gorton, with music by David Chesworth.[12]

From 29 January 2009, a production at the Trafalgar Studios in London starred Imelda Staunton as Kath, Mathew Horne as Sloane, Simon Paisley Day as Ed and Richard Bremmer as Kemp.[13] Horne collapsed during a performance on 2 April 2009 with a suspected virus.[14] The show played at the Trafalgar until 11 April 2009.

Screen adaptations

A television adaptation was broadcast by ITV in the Playhouse series on 15 July 1968, and directed by Peter Moffatt. It starred Sheila Hancock as Kath, Edward Woodward as Ed, Clive Francis as Sloane, and Arthur Lovegrove as Kemp. Originally made in monochrome on videotape by Associated-Rediffusion, it survives as a telerecording.[15]

Clive Exton wrote the screenplay for a 1970 feature film directed by Douglas Hickox and starring Beryl Reid, Peter McEnery, Harry Andrews, and Alan Webb.[15]



  1. Banham (1998, 827) and Orton (1976, 63–149).
  2. Orton (1976, 64).
  3. Lahr, John(1978) Prick Up Your Ears, Knopf, New York
  4. League, The Broadway. "Entertaining Mr. Sloane – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB". www.ibdb.com.
  5. Kabatchnik, Amnon (14 April 2011). "Blood on the Stage, 1950-1975: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection". Scarecrow Press via Google Books.
  6. Orton, Joe (20 March 2014). "Orton Complete Plays: Entertaining Mr Sloane; Loot; What the Butler; Ruffian; Erpingham Camp; Funeral Games; Good & ..." Bloomsbury Publishing via Google Books.
  7. "Breath of life » 28 Mar 1981 » The Spectator Archive".
  8. "An Evening with Barbara Windsor » The Cinema Museum, London".
  9. News, Manchester Evening (15 February 2007). "Royal Exchange: Timeline".
  10. "Entertaining Mr Sloane Press Conference".
  11. Rooney, David (16 March 2006). "Entertaining Mr. Sloane".
  12. "Entertaining Mr Sloane - MTC". www.australianstage.com.au.
  13. Billington, Michael (2 February 2009). "Theatre review: Entertaining Mr Sloane / Trafalgar Studios, London" via www.theguardian.com.
  14. "Mathew Horne collapses on stage". BBC News. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  15. "BFI Screenonline: Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970)". www.screenonline.org.uk.


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