Entertaining Mr Sloane

I saw the movie today of the play by Joe Orton; it surprised me by its ending where brother & sister decide to marry Mr Sloane. The incestuous connotations were already anticipated by their dad, “dadda”, who lived with his daughter & spies on her erotic episodes through a pinhole in their bedroom wall. Once this subversion of the family unit is assimilated the marriage of both bro & sis to the same man is easily accepted; the mythological basis of the six months turn & turn about is part of Orton’s layered work of art; it could well refer to the half yearly return of Persephone. When Orton & Halliwell shared a bedsit, they plundered art books from the local library to create a surrealistic frieze for their domestic environment. The language of Orton’s play is similarly staccato but in a baroque or Jungian manner. For instance, the brother threatens to turn Sloane into the police; Sloane retorts, “you can’t do that; I’m impressionable”.

The language is a clever collage of populist cliches, the style was perhaps invented by Ionesco in his play Waiting for Godot. I find the most contemporary version to be found in the Goth band Placebo’s song lyrics.

There is a great deal that goes unstated in the play: a more overt indication that the brother & Sloane were conducting a sexual relationship would have drawn retribution by the censors. After all, sex between men was only partly decriminalised in 1967. The act applied to males over 20, but society as ever was slow to change its attitude and accept gay relationships.

Watching some gay pornography today brought home several unintended effects. The motif of delaying the complete removal of underwear is a means by which the editor is able to tantalize the viewer; it is also a type of inhibition, elaborated until the eventual removal of underwear becomes ludicrously clumsy. But even more absurd is the middle class affirmation of affluence by the director. I accept that in a porn scene featuring two burly army guys, kissing does not feature widely; instead, a shower scene where each guy soaps then washes the other forms the plot development, elaborately filmed. The affluence of the setting is lovingly lingered over. In one movie, making a breakfast “smoothie” becomes ritualistically important; then the camera focuses on the manufacturer’s logo on the underwear. One wonders whether the fashion houses have bought screen time? Entertaining the Mr Sloane of today, Joe Orton.Joe_Orton_1964


About anton veenstra

tapestry weaver, fibre artist, gay/qr activist, multiculturalist
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