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See ‘What the Butler Saw’ in Revival of Joe Orton’s Black Farce



‘What the Butler Saw’, now on tour across the UK, is something of an intellectual curiosity.


Depending on the cultural lens you apply, you’ll leave the theatre appalled, affronted or astounded at a script that tackles British class, coercive behaviour, sex references, mental health and cross-dressing presented through the medium of rapid-fire farce.


And that’s just what the author intended.


Playwright Joe Orton, writing in the 1960’s, played a major role in that decade’s vital exploration of class, sex and gender behaviours and norms. Murdered by his male partner in 1967, his own chaotic lifestyle, frequent brushes with the law and eventual incarceration in prison contributed to his unique vision of society riddled with corruption, priggishness and double standards.


‘What the Butler Saw’ opened in London in 1969 – just a year after the abolition of theatre censorship in the UK (yes, that used to be a thing). And like the penny arcade machine that gives the play its name, it’s designed to give us a glimpse through a lens of what happens when society is undressed (often literally).


London Classic Theatre’s new production is fast-paced and faithful to the original version. John Dorney and Holly Smith as the bored married couple seeking fulfillment elsewhere, Jack Lord as government advisor Dr Rance and Jon-Paul Rowden as Sergeant Match have a fantastic cast chemistry that makes their outrageous circumstances both bewildering and believable.



Alana Jackson’s Geraldine Barclay perfectly embodies the ‘working class’ temp whose interview takes a dark turn. And Alex Cardall is simply brilliant as Nicholas Beckett, the Station Hotel’s ‘page boy’ – one to watch we think.


A production for the true culture enthusiast, go with your mind open and ready for a long dissection afterwards.


‘What the Butler Saw’ is now on national tour. Contact the individual theatre box offices or check on their websites for specific BSL or audio-described performances and accessibility information.


May 14 – May 18 2024: Blackpool Grand Theatre, Blackpool, https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/


May 21 – May 25 2024: Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, https://www.anvilarts.org.uk/whats-on/venues/the-haymarket


May 29 – 30 May 2024: Theatre Royal, Bath, https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/


June 4 – 8 June 2024: New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, https://www.wolseytheatre.co.uk/


June 18 - 22 June 2024: Darlington Hippodrome (formerly Civic Theatre), Darlington, https://www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk/


July 9 - 13th July 2024: Malvern Theatres, Malvern, https://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/

 

 

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