Event: What the Butler Saw
Venue: Drama Barn
Touted by director Jonathan Kerridge-Phipps as the best English stage comedy since Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Joe Orton’s farce, What the Butler Saw did not disappoint for Friday night entertainment.
A sequence of hysterical events, including cross-dressing, shooting and drugging unfurls when respected psychiatrist, Dr Prentice, tries to cover up an interrupted attempt to seduce his newly-hired secretary, Geraldine.
Needless to say, the play itself succeeds in its goal of evoking laughter. By the response of the audience in the Drama Barn, not one person was left untouched by the script’s combination of witty dialogue and slapstick humour. Orton even offers a touch of irony by poking fun at the absurdity of farce when government inspector, Dr Rance, exclaims at the set: “Why are there so many doors? Was this house designed by a lunatic?”
Actor, Mark Smith played the excited Dr Rance- he sadly had a tendency to overact at times, however, the cast, in general delivered the script well. The show belonged to James Duckworth, who played Dr Prentice. As the cause of chaos, Duckworth gave an admirable performance desperately trying to regain order and keep his reputation untarnished. What especially stood out were his, and the rest of the cast’s, glib ad-libs of the production’s minor hiccups. The night I attended the play, a number of technical problems arose; a door simply would not open to allow the angry exit of a frustrated wife, a vase of roses kept tumbling over and a prescription booklet was nowhere to be found. When a gun fell apart during a shoot-out, Duckworth dryly quipped, “It’s Japanese”. Moments like these added to, rather than took away from, the charm and humour of the play.
Unbelievable, extravagant and impossibly ridiculous, What the Butler Saw provided great entertainment to ease the winter blues.