What the Butler Saw

by Joe Orton

Directed by Despina Sellar

May 13th - 18th, 2003

The Tower Theatre performing at the Courtyard Theatre, King's Cross

 

Cast List

Dr Prentice : Keith Hill
Geraldine Barclay : Philippa Pearson
Mrs Prentice : Jill Batty
Nicholas Beckett : Dominic Ward
Dr Rance : David Sellar
Sergeant Match : Martin Buttery

 

Production Team

Director : Despina Sellar
Set Design : Jude Chalk
Lighting Design : Hilary Allan
Sound Design : Phillip Ley

Stage Manager : Margaret Ley
ASMs : Moira McSperrin, Nigel Martin, Jude Chalk, Eddie Coleman
Lighting Operator : Cathy Thomas
Sound Operator : Nathalie Lake
Wardrobe : Jill Batty, Kay Perversi
Set construction : Keith Syrett, Alan Nesbitt, Jacky Devitt, Claire Rice, Robert Myer, Stephen Ley, Lesley Scarth



Review by James Lloyd for the Camden New Journal


Farce this may be, but consider its effect when first staged in 1969. Its constant stream of nudity, cross-dressing and loud declarations of sexual intent must have been truly shocking. It was meant to be. Although diluted with society's mellowing values, Joe Orton's play comes as close to political satire as a play relying on men in dresses and throw-about comedy can be.

A psychiatrist attempts to seduce the naïve young blonde applying to be his secretary. Interrupted by his wife, his efforts to hide what he is doing force him to lie. The confusion escalates with the sudden arrival of a government inspector intent on reviewing his practice. After that, it all slides into glorious ridiculous chaos. Cleverly, the tall tales the characters tell to pro-tect themselves occur in the context of a mental institution. Soon, much of the cast has been declared mad and is being prepared for a straitjacket. Arrogant pompous medical professionals should not attend the play. Orton dispenses with them by the interval. After these establishment targets, Orton takes aim at societal attitudes and hypocrisy towards sex. It is quick-fire in a way few scriptwriters man-age nowadays, and the pace never stops.

Every actor should have a good English farce somewhere in their repertoire and the cast here expel this part of their curriculum with merit. None of the parts require Bafta level perfornances, so the cast do well to ease back, relax and enjoy the fun. David Sellar as Dr Rance eagerly scoops up the comic space afforded him as the overbearing doctor who happily designs ever more preposterous explanations of the madness of those around him. Keith Hill also gives a good performance as the snobbish slimy Dr Prentice whose indiscretion sets off the whole chain of events.

Long before Frasier yielded a decade of gags portraying weak, self-deluding grandees of the medical profession, Orton had it all wrapped up.