What the Butler Saw – Leicester Curve March 2017

what the Butler Saw Main

This review has been a really long time coming, but I can honestly say I have not stopped thinking about this play since I saw it back in March.

I originally booked tickets for this with a dear friend of mine after seeing an interview with Holby City’s Catherine Russell where by she enthused about the part she had to play in Joe Orton’s  ‘What the Butler Saw’ , and her complete passion for this role plus her brief synopsis of the story, made me think “Yes! I need to see this!”.

Now…neither myself, nor my friend, really knew what we were letting ourselves in for.  A brief bit of research beforehand told me that Joe Orton’s plays were controversial at the time they were originally released, particularly ‘What the Butler Saw’ in 1969 which I am sure Sigmund Freud would have had a LOT to say about. I was preparing myself for innuendo’s, crude language, and some cringe worthy lines. What I actually came across was exactly this, but in the safe surrounds of a theatre, and some clever scriptwriting, the plot and the hilarity masks the “controversial” themes of the play.

What the Butler Saw
(Rufus Hound as Dr Prentice and Dakota Blue Richards as Geraldine – Leicester Curve Production Images)

Directed by Leicester Curve’s own Nikolai Foster, Rufus Hound played the pivotal Dr Prentice, a psychiatric doctor who opens the play interviewing Geraldine (Dakota Blue Richards) who hopes to be his new Secretary. The interview takes a predictable, but not completely uncontroversial turn when Dr Prentice asks Geraldine to strip behind the curtain to be “examined” to ensure suitability for the position. At which point Mrs Prentice (Catherine Russell) appears in the office after staying the night at a local hotel, having “shaken the sheets” with the Bellhop, Nicholas (Jack Holden), who accompanies, and subsequently blackmails her into giving him the secretary position. With the introduction of a surprise Government Inspector (Jasper Britton) to add drama to the already tangled affairs, and Sargent Match (Ravi Aujla) who is investigating a missing extremity of a Winston Churchill statue, you can’t not get pulled in by the energy.

What the Butler Saw 2
(Catherine Russell as Mrs Prentice – Leicester Curve Production Images)

The cast are so energetic! Each of their performances are confident and crisp whilst not feeling rehearsed, and with the complicated but perfectly timed entrances, and their fast-paced lines, you can tell they trust each other completely as they rely on each others cues. So much could go wrong, but it doesn’t! They all know where they need to be and where to go at the right time, and the audience are carried along, and feel just as exhausted as the cast probably do running around the set. There is cross-dressing, chaos, and an abundance of inter-twining relationships; all of which have the audience on the edge of their seats waiting to see who will appear next and dressed as who.

I can understand why the original play could have been an awkward watch for some in the 1960’s, because it is such a contemporary play, in theme, topic and general approach to gender and sexuality, but in the here and now – what an energetic performance.

What the Butler Saw 3 (Jack Holden as Nicholas – Leicester Curve Production Images)

Having no expectations going in to see this play, I left completely blown away. To explain the plot to any companions, I felt as if I was one of the characters caught up in this Psychological entanglement. If you love a good plot, which keeps the brain on top form, whilst enjoying moments of hilarity, plus a good shock factor, this is the play for you. You will walk out wondering whether you have really witnessed the story you have, laughing at the awkward moments, and knowing that you have joined an exclusive club of audience members who will never really be able to explain what the play is actually about.

In other words, if this is being performed at a theatre near you, GO AND SEE IT! I will never be able to give this play a review worthy of its plot.

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