Review: Joe Orton’s What The Butler Saw. Curve. Leicester.

This Made At Curve production of What The Butler Saw by the brilliantly iconoclastic and notoriously naughty Leicester playwright, Joe Orton, is side achingly hilarious from start to glorious finish!

If you like to laugh yourself silly then this is the show to see and you have only until the 18th March to do so. What The Butler Saw is a Curve and Theatre Royal Bath production so those lucky devils in Bath also have a definite treat coming their way 27 March – 1st April.

side achingly hilarious from start to glorious finish.

What The Butler Saw was Orton’s final play and completed only a month before his untimely and violent death. So, sadly the superbly gifted playwright never got to see a production of what has been considered his best work. This production commemorates the 50th anniversary of Orton’s death at the age of 34. Had he lived on we can only imagine the joys his future plays may have brought us. We at East Midlands Theatre are sure Orton would have certainly enjoyed his legacy especially with the high standard of this vicious comedy of manners that reveals the rotten core of the Establishment of his time.

What The Butler Saw is cleverly witty, pokes fun at sex, family relationships, sanity and most of all the pomposity of authority. The six strong cast are perfectly cast for this intelligently witty and uproariously funny farce that has the Leicester audience grinning and giggling all the way home.

Spiked with Orton’s cynical dark humour we are treated to such tasty morsels of wit as:

Geraldine: I’ve no idea who my father was.

Prentice: I’d better be frank, Miss Barclay. I can’t employ you if you’re in any way miraculous. It would be contrary to established practice. You did have a father?

Geraldine: Oh, I’m sure I did. My mother was frugal in her habits, but she’d never economize unwisely.

And not forgetting:

Geraldine: I’m quite sane!

Rance: Pull yourself together. Why have you been certified if you’re sane? Even for a madwoman you’re unusually dense.

Curve’s What The Butler Saw is wickedly and  wittily directed by Curve’s artistic director Nikolai Foster. The set design by Michael Taylor holds within its clinical madhouse white sphere the perfect enclosure for the bonkers fast paced action of the farce to unfold. Ben Cracknell’s lighting is dramatically red hot and the musical score designed by Adam McReady for Poetical Machines is a total acoustic blast!

The top notch cast are wondrously alive and desperately funny throughout. The anti-establishment daftness never lets up and, for lovers of farce there is door slamming a plenty and trousers drop like a Brian Rix farce on acid.

Rufus Hound is wonderfully louche and perfectly cast as the psychologically corrupt Dr Prentice. He is Mr Comedy personified.  Catherine Russell shines as the comically sex mad psychiatrist’s wife Mrs Prentice and Dakota Blue Richards plays innocent blonde would-be secretary Geraldine to utter gullible perfection. Jack Holden as Nicholas Beckett is a total hoot whether he is a plotting bell boy or his awkward crossdressed version of himself. Ravi Aujla makes the most of the role of Sergeant Match and is deliciously funny in the second half.

Pretty much stealing the show is the superb Jasper Britton in an actor’s total gift of a part; that of Dr Rance the psychiatrist who convinces all the characters throughout the utter mayhem on stage that they are all desperately certifiable and Orton’s terrific wit and societal  condemnation finds its absurdist voice through the crazy opinions and observations of Dr Rance.

As Mr Joe Orton himself (under a finely crafted pseudonym) might have ironically penned to a national newspaper or the management of Curve itself, this reviewer conceives Orton’s fictional letter of complaint about his own production.

Dear Sirs, after this disgusting, extremely offensive, evening of debauched perversion (What The Butler Saw) on one of the finest stages in the country (which frankly should know better) it’s clean living , remain at home and Teach Yourself Woodwork for me from now on!  If this is the kind of ruddy tosh you consider art God help us all!  Frankly, I was mightily relieved to be able breathe in some fine Leicester air after witnessing this complete and utter theatrical debacle. Drivel! That is what it was – dashed drivel! And vulgar filth to boot!” Sincerely, Arthur Mind.

Reviewer: Phil Lowe

Photo credits Catherine Ashmore.

Highly recommended.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s