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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 282

Joe Orton’s identity as a gay working-class playwright is reflected in his work, Loot. The story is of a sum of money that is stolen from a bank by Dennis and Hal. Dennis and Hal must protect their treasure from Fay, a serial-killer who marries men and then takes their money after killing them. They must also watch out for Inspector Truscott who with some payment assists Hal and Dennis in avoiding arrest. Throughout the play, Orton questions what it means to be a criminal. Hal and Dennis are humanized while characters like the police inspector are brought into question. There is no clear line of good and bad. In this dark story, everyone is a criminal. This aligns with Orton, who has his own history with the label criminal. Orton was sentenced to six months in prison for defacing a library book. However, he interpreted this as punishment for his homosexuality. Like Orton, his characters come to question what it means to be a criminal and what constitutes crime. In many ways, Loot is an early critique of the police force and its biased practices. While the police force claims to be nobel, Inspector Truscott is a fake. Similarly, Fay claims to be a “nice person” however, she turns out to be a serial killer. Her character defies all norms and facades that society is faced with. As a woman, it is assumed that she is a dutiful wife and caretaker. Even more so, Fay is a nurse. This compels the reader to think of her as someone who solves problems rather than start them. Yet, Fay is a cold-blooded murderer. She defies each of the assumptions made about her.

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The Play

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 766

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 cupboard in the McLeavy house where the loot has been stashed.

The solution is simple: Dennis, who is in charge of sealing the coffin, will simply remove Mrs. McLeavy from it, put her remains in the cupboard, and put the loot in the coffin, in which it will receive the full rites of the Roman...

(The entire section contains 1488 words.)

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