What the Butler Saw is the last play written by Joe Orton before his untimely death aged 34; sadly he never saw it performed which is a great pity as it is rather marvellous. Written in 1967 there is pure farce, with Joe Orton’s trademark slant of darkness about it, and a definite throwing off of all moral conventions. Anyone who thinks that gender issues, brazen sexuality and cocking a snook at authority figures is the prerogative of today, think again!
The best bit of course is that the play is very funny and superbly executed by the cast; they take on all the bursting through doors with and without trousers with impeccable timing, and never miss a beat. It is set in a private clinic, presided over by Dr Prentice, a psychiatrist in the process of trying to interview a new secretary, whilst dealing with his nymphomaniac wife, a hospital inspector and just for laughs a gormless policeman.
Rufus Hound plays Dr Prentice, a masterpiece of thwarted lust and fraught fumbling alongside his wife, adeptly portrayed by Catherine Russell, they make a great team. Dakota Blue Richards is ravishing as well as highly amusing as the luckless secretary Geraldine, and Jasper Britton makes the very most of his role as the barking mad government inspector Dr Rance, roaring and raging his way around the stage, his lengthy and deranged monologues made me helpless with laughter.
Jack Holden plays the black-mailing bellhop, Mrs Prentice’s one night stand who also looks good in a dress and high heels with Ravi Aujla as Sergeant Match, the dopey policeman completing the picture.
The set is great, circular and pristinely white as a clinic should be, even if it doubles up as a madhouse and its shape greatly adds to the comedic comings and goings. The play may be dated and of its time but we really enjoyed our visit to the politically incorrect 60s where freedom of speech was all!