Review: What The Butler Saw

Posted by Matt Bourne on 05:45 with No comments
What The Butler Saw
Vaudeville Theatre, London

In a year when the Olympics come to Britain and it's the Queens Jubilee year, it's only right that we celebrate that other bastion of Britishness, the farce.  Just in time for the celebrations comes arguably one of the best in the shape of a new production of Joe Orton's "What The Butler Saw".  Starring Omid Djalili, the laughs come thick and fast, in this excellent new presentation.

When psychoanalyst Doctor Prentice (Tim McInnenry) requests that his new secretary (Georgia Moffett) to undress, he is very suddenly interrupted by his wife (Samantha Bond) & her latest conquest the titular butler (Nick Hendrix).  Then to add to the ensuing madness Doctor Rance (Djalili) arrives to inspect the practice.  With, lie and counter lie adding to wind up the situation a policeman (Jason Thorpe) arrive enquiring about a Winston Churchill statue...

If ever there was a definition of the word madcap, the What The Butler Saw is just that.  This wonderfully gleeful production directed by Sean Foley (Who was the mastermind behind the recent Ladykillers stage production) arrives just as farce seems to be making a major come back (With recent winners One Man, Two Guvnors & Noises Off).  Maintaining Orton's final play written in 1967, Foley's direction runs at a frenetic pace after a slow burn beginning.  If anything the direction at times comes across a bit haphazard, with the small stage and the speed of the show. It would have been nice to see Ortons play maybe reworked slightly and updated for modern day, but that doesn't hold back this production by any means.

The cast is deliciously great, Samantha Bond is majestic as Doctor Prentice's randy wife, Georgia Moffetts secretary is an exquisite delivery of the part and Djalili's comic timing and personality are razor sharp.  However, Tim McInnery as Doctor Prentice is the complete and utter highlight of the night, with his sanity (and hair line) fraying as the knot's get tighter and tighter wound, his years of working with Rowan Atkinson on Blackadder certainly pay off here.  From rushing round the stage not knowing where to hide clothes to finding himself in uncompromising positions, his comedy leanings and facial expressions are simply priceless.  Nick Hendrix as the butler is excellent & Jason Thorpe's scene stealing Poilceman is a brilliant piece of slapstick acting too.

What The Butler Saw is considered by some anti farce, but whats in a name when a prodction is this funny?  Despite being written in the 60's the script fizzes with humour that may have been shocking back then, but has found a time where it goes from shocking to now being very current.  With plenty to celebrate in 2012, make sure that What The Butler Saw is near the top of that list, especially as it is only with us until Mid-September, which is more the shame as this production deserves to much like the cast, run and run.

Matt Bourne