By WILLIAM GLEN-DOEPEL
Three Men for Colverton by David Cregan (Methuen Playscript, 7s. 6d.).
Loot by Joe Orton (Methuen, 7s. 6d.).
Macbirdl by Barbara Garson (Penguin, 45. 6d.). ALL these plays are satires: socio -religious (Three Men for Colverton), plain religious (Loot), and socio-political (IViacbirdI).
The first, the most harmless, was staged last year for a few weeks at the Royal Court Theatre and is concerned with the attempts of three evangelists to convert a town sunk in love
of sex and power. Mrs. Carnock, the leading laywoman of the parish, is determined to keep the place as it is and dominates the parish council and the vicar. There is also Fr. Pym, a brisk itinerant monk complete with travelling confessional, who works for Missions to England.
As the play proceeds we discover the clay feet of all these characters and the inadequacies of their religious concepts. The author shows a certain bizarre humour—there is much play
with the ashes of Mrs. Camock's physically powerful husband, which are supposed to be buried with her, but are misappropriated to lend rnana to the homosexual Brother Ched, trying to prove his manhood with Miss Fisher, the local school teacher —but the quirky vision of the English provinces does not altoether convince us when realised in dialogue and action. There are some original effects in the way the play is staged. Loot, still running successfully at the Criterion Theatre, is a very funny and very irreverent comedy about two young men smuggling banknotes out of a house in the coffin of the embalmed mother of one of them. Again a funeral urn also comes in handy.
These layabouts, together with the unsuspecting husband of the dead woman, the improbable nurse who had looked after her, but actually poisoned her, and the wholly impossible police inspector, Truscott, who poses as someone from the Metropolitan Water Board in order to inquire into the theft, are a group of outrageous characters who exchange witty remarks of often Wildean brilliance.
The flagrantly ant-Catholic
tenor of many of them suggests that the author is still reacting to a narrow religious upbringing, and delicate sensibilities may be offended, but his comic gift is such that one cannot help laughing at the incongruities he piles up.
Mocbird!, which by the time this appears will have been staged by Joan Littlewood, is an even more savage satire, based on Macbeth, with the current President of the United States cast for the title role and John Ken O'Dunc the name of his victim.
Apparently the author owes her inspiration for the play to a slip of the tongue, when someone once referred to Ladybird Johnson, the President's wife, as Lady Macbird. It has been running off Broadway to packed houses for some time, but the Lord D Chamberlain refused a licence for it to be performed here. a ban which Joan Littlewood has defied.
The amazing thing is that it could be staged in America, where it is far more likely to be political dynamite. The Shakespearean parody, drawing lines from many of the plays, is often very amusing, but the play's purpose is to shock and outrage. This it achieves.