The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Loot is, superficially, a play about the burial of Mrs. McLeavy, a middle-class British woman just deceased. The play opens immediately before her funeral. Her husband and her nurse, Fay, are onstage with the coffin, which stands on trestles. As the action develops, Mrs. McLeavy’s son, Hal, is introduced. The audience by this time has learned that Fay, in her mid-twenties, has been widowed seven times. Accounts are soon given of what widowed her so regularly, including references to two husbands who disappeared and are presumed dead. Fay obviously hastened all of them to their reward.

Fay wears Mrs. McLeavy’s slippers, and as the play progresses, she dons other articles of the dead woman’s clothing. Fay wants to marry Mr. McLeavy, and she goes so far as to demand, before the funeral, that he propose marriage to her on bended knee. The club she holds over him is that on her deathbed, Mrs. McLeavy changed her will, leaving everything to Fay. McLeavy can share in his wife’s bequest only if he marries Fay. Fay’s reward is that, marrying McLeavy, she will stand to inherit everything he has, and it is clear that in Fay’s capable hands, he will not reach a more advanced age than he has already achieved.

The McLeavy’s son Hal, a ribald youth whom Fay, a devout Roman Catholic, scolds for making the priest work twenty-four hours a day simply to hear his confessions, does not plan to attend his mother’s funeral. His friend and sometime lover, Dennis, works with the mortician who will lay the woman to rest. Dennis soon arrives and provides the information that he has had sex with Fay beneath a picture of the Sacred Heart and that he and Hal have just robbed a bank and have to do something about hiding the money before Truscott, a police inspector masquerading as a Metropolitan Water Board inspector, comes nosing about close to the...

(The entire section is 766 words.)