What the Butler Saw

Joe Orton

What the Butler Saw

When psychoanalyst Dr Prentice instructs his new secretary to undress, he doesn't expect to be interrupted by his wife, her blackmailing lover, a government inspector and an inquisitive policeman. But hiding a naked woman is the least of his worries, as libidos run riot, identities are swapped, social decorum is buried, madness mocks morality and laughter reigns. 3.0 out of 5 based on 11 reviews
What the Butler Saw

Omniscore:

Location London
Venue Vaudeville Theatre
Director Sean Foley
Cast Tim McInnerny, Samantha Bond, Georgia Moffat, Jason Thorpe, Nick Hendrix, Omid Djalili
From May 2012
Until August 2012
Box Office 0844 4829675
 

When psychoanalyst Dr Prentice instructs his new secretary to undress, he doesn't expect to be interrupted by his wife, her blackmailing lover, a government inspector and an inquisitive policeman. But hiding a naked woman is the least of his worries, as libidos run riot, identities are swapped, social decorum is buried, madness mocks morality and laughter reigns.

Reviews

The Observer

Kate Kellaway

It's no wonder the piece isn't performed more often. For all its fabulous one-liners, it doesn't know when to stop.

20/05/2012

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The Sunday Times

Christopher Hart

Without the shocks, What the Butler Saw might feel like no more than a rather dated farce. There is even a moment here when a man is standing on stage with his trousers round his ankles... and his wife walks in! But the play still tingles with the pleasurable electricity of the illicit, and is so beautifully written, very nearly Wildean. Sean Foley’s production shows an admirable lack of qualms about all the taboo subjects on parade. “My husband struck me!” “Did you enjoy it?” “At first. But the pleasures of the senses quickly pall.”

20/05/2012

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The Independent on Sunday

Kate Bassett

The Wildean repartee is there, but Orton's longer speeches drag and his jokes about women hoping to be assaulted sound like crass misogyny. A darker complexity lurks there perhaps, when you remember the playwright's own violent death at the hands of his lover.

20/05/2012

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The Stage

Mark Shenton

What the Butler Saw that appropriates the form of farce to provide an exercise in genuine comic subversion. This is the play, after all, in which anyone arriving at Dr Prentice’s psychiatric clinic, whether a would-be secretary, a hotel bellboy or a policeman, ends up undressed on his examining table, and the dismembered member of Winston Churchill makes an appearance as well. It’s the play, too, which is full of some of the most delicious bon-mots in comedy history.

17/05/2012

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The Evening Standard

Henry Hitchings

The mayhem is often very funny, and Orton’s writing is tremendously stylish, full of satirical observations and killer lines. But this is a monotone, sometimes clunky production which could do with a lighter, fresher touch. It seems crazy, yes, but also a bit dated.

17/05/2012

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The Daily Express

Julie Carpenter

By the time Jason Thorpe’s Sergeant Match holds aloft a dismembered part of Winston Churchill’s statue we’re in no danger of forgetting that this is a play aimed at delivering as much irreverent anarchy as possible.

18/05/2012

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The Financial Times

Ian Shuttleworth

The high-calibre cast ... leave us in no doubt that their characters believe every twist and turn of the drink-and-drug-impregnated tangle is fiendishly important ... but not that they do, not that they are those characters. They are so busy being overwrought that they smother the aphoristic filth of the script, the verbal smoothness that should counterbalance the chaotic behaviour. Djalili, in particular, spends much of the second half expertly eliciting laughs from tics of performance while failing to “sell” almost any of the many gags in his lines. Bond and McInnerny have the excuse that their characters are growing progressively drunker, which gives them freer rein as matters accelerate.

19/05/2012

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The Times

Libby Purves

Goodness, what an angry play. Joe Orton’s last work, posthumously staged in 1969, is the farce of fury. It’s proto-punk, hilarious in contempt, slaughtering sacred cows: Churchill, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, doctors, psychiatrists, police, marriage, race. To the cry “Have you no respect?” — still, I assure you, current in the 1960s — Orton cries, “No.” ... he chose farce, seizing and subverting all the genre’s genteel, sexless naughtinesses of trouser- dropping, cross-dressing, seduction, camp and infidelity. Even his absurdism scorns arty significance to hurtle into the comic stratosphere.

18/05/2012

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The Guardian

Michael Billington

A grotesque cartoon in which Orton is deprived of any real sense of danger.

17/05/2012

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The Daily Telegraph

Charles Spencer

Watching Sean Foley’s over-frenetic, emphatically zany new production there were long stretches that seemed almost sadistically unfunny, as the actors shouted, mugged desperately and avoided no cheap trick in their desperate pursuit of laughs. The more they screamed and overacted the less amusing it seemed, and the Oscar Wilde-like elegance of the language, in which almost every line has a beautifully honed and often subversive wit, was squandered almost throughout.

17/05/2012

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The Daily Mail

Quentin Letts

You don’t go to Orton for restraint, I know. But Mr Djalili’s vocal range is too limited for this part and the voltage of his character is too similar to that of the already-established Dr Prentice. Variety, please ... The point about psychiatrists being mad is made time and again. You have to admire the force and energy of the thing but I am afraid I zoned out well before the end.

18/05/2012

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