What the Butler Saw

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Joe Orton’s 1967 comedy play comes to life with the current tour from London Classic Theatre, with plenty of laughs, giggles and a few unbelievable shockers as a Doctor and his wife try to frantically and chaotically try to hide their extramarital seductions with farcical consequences.

It’s one continuous scene set in Dr Prentice’s consulting room and the events unfold in real time. 

Dr Prentice (John Darney) is a psychiatrist and is interviewing a young attractive woman, Geraldine Barclay (Alana Jackson) for the secretary position. Dr Prentice persuades her to undress as he needs to examine her, although Geraldine is a little suspicious, she complies. Suddenly, Mrs Prentice (Holly Smith) enters room which causes Dr Prentice to hid an undressed Geraldine behind a curtain. Dr Prentice attempts to hide the clothes around the room without Mrs Pentice noticing his strange behaviour.

Mrs Prentice, is currently trying to hide her own misdemeanours as she was seduced and then blackmailed by Nicholas (Alex Cardall), a hotel bellboy, and promises this man the secretary job, and needs to convince her husband to take Nicholas on, without Dr Prentice noticing her strange behaviour.

The intensity is increased when Dr Rance (Jack Lord), a government inspector comes for an inspection and comes across quite a lot of unusual behaviour. He says he’s going to use this situation to develop a new book and in doing so he exaggerates his diagnoses, gets Dr Prentice to drug Geraldine and he cuts off her hair.

Somewhere along the line, Sergeant Match (Robbie Moonan) turns up involved with an investigation for indecency to school girls from the nearby hotel and he is on the lookout for the bellboy.  In all the chaos, Dr Prentice seems to be able to persuade people to take off their clothes, hide them in different rooms, and gets them to wear each other’s clothes that means the role of mistaken identities is a big theme which brings plenty of laughter from the audience.

As the day progresses, the chaos, confusion, disarray, commotion and hullabaloo becomes progressively frantic and out right bonkers with the final reveal of the missing parts of Sir Winston Churchill, with the conclusion as to who is related to whom, causes plenty of guffaws from the watching, yet incredulous crowd.

Although some themes are quite outdated with the role of people in authority trying to seduce others is slightly uncomfortable at times, it’s a fun farce, well performed by the actors as this needed precision timing for many of the gags. I didn’t see the butler though…

Joe Orton never got to see his play being performed as he died a month after writing it however I am sure he would have enjoyed seeing it come to life with all it’s fun craziness. 

Photos: Sheila Burnett

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