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Joe Orton’s What The Butler Saw - Vaudeville Theatre (Review)

What The Butler Saw

Review by Shanna Schreuder

THE star-studded British cast, headed up by Tim McInnerny, Omid Djalili and Samantha Bond, made the celebrity-sprinkled audience roar with laughter on the opening night of Sean Foley’s revival of Joe Orton’s critically-acclaimed play What The Butler Saw.

And it wasn’t just famous friends, such as David Baddiel and Jim Broadbent, who walked up the red carpet to enjoy the show, but also cast member Georgia Moffett’s actor parents, Peter Davison and Sandra Dickinson.

This revival of Orton’s cherished farce comes at a time when this particular genre of theatre is making a successful comeback, as One Man, Two Guvnors and Noises Off both transferred to the West End earlier this year.

As you woul expect from a Joe Orton play, What The Butler Saw has dark undertones that still manage to make contemporary audiences and fans of the playwright now and again gasp at the end of their laughs.

Set in psycho-analyst Dr Prentice’s practice, things rapidly get out of hand when he is surprised by his wife and her blackmailing lover right at the point when he has managed to persuade his prospective secretary to undress, lie on his examination bed and think of the closing chapters of her favourite work of fiction.

The unexpected entrance is immediately followed by Dr Prentice making a panicked dash to reunite the young lady with her garment.

Unfortunately, his frantic attempts come to a fruitless end as his wife slips into the secretary’s dress to conceal the fact she’s only wearing a black slip under her fur coat.

This comical running around is shifted up a gear when a government inspector by the name of Dr Rance appears on the scene to make a routine spot check of the premises.

He diagnoses everyone he encounters to have some level of madness, which makes him overcome with manic joy as it provides him with rich material for his next book. It’s only when the police officer appears on the scene that the truth finally comes to light.

Tim McInnerny, as Dr Prentice, proudly displayed his expertise at physical comedy, as he commanded every inch of the stage. His dynamic chemistry with Samantha Bond, playing his wife, was explosive to say the least.

As their characters became more inebriated with every encounter, their performances became even more focused.

Omid Djalili relished his part as the over-zealous psycho-analyst, skillfully using his comic timing to add gravitas to each of his lines.

Georgina Moffett as the abused secretary provided the right amount of innocent sexiness, which is the perfect amount of Carry On-style humour needed for this play, and Nick Hendrix as the devious bellboy has enough twinkle in his eye to make up for his overt cockiness, while Jason Thorpe’s police officer was slapstick genius.

The writing, directing and acting ensure that this revival of What The Butler Saw entertains and delights from beginning to end.

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