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A CurtainUp London London Review
What the Butler Saw

Iím a scientist. I state facts. I cannot be expected to provide explanations. — Dr Rance
What the Butler Saw
Tim McInnerny as Dr Prentice and Samantha Bond as his wife (Photo: Johan Persson)
Joe Ortonís play What the Butler Saw was first produced posthumously in 1969 after Ortonís murder by Kenneth Halliwell. As readers will know farce as a genre fails to light this reviewerís fire, but Ortonís script is fresh, zany and edgy rather than cheesy and dated and I found What the Butler Saw thoroughly enjoyable. The credit must go to Sean Foley who has made a magnificent job of the direction, keeping the action fast and anarchic and getting lovely performances out of his cast.

Tim McInnerny plays psychiatrist and predatory womaniser Dr Prentice and the play opens in his consulting rooms where he is interviewing Geraldine Barclay (Georgia Moffett), a prospective secretarywhom he asks to undress and get on the couch. The whole play is brimful of riotously funny, sexual innuendo and the politically incorrect. The arrival of Mrs Prentice (Samantha Bond), who has been dallying herself in a linen cupboard at a hotel with an attractive page boy, Nicholas Bennett (Nick Hendrix), has come away in her fur coat but minus her frock.

This results in her purloining Geraldineís frock which her husband is unable to resist without Mrs Prentice finding out about his interview technique. Now this frock will be also worn at one stage by the page boy, and the policeman Sergeant Match (Jason Thorpe), who is chasing Nicholas Bennett, will also lose his clothes as he succumbs to drugs. I think only the inspecting psychiatrist Dr Rance (Omid Djalili) will manage to remain fully clothed! At one point Nicholas will run across the stage with only a policemanís helmet covering his genitals in the style of the male cricket streakers manhandled off the pitch by helpful policemen.

Tim McInnerny looks odd, lanky and gurning magnificently, his hair getting more and more dishevelled as he downs whisky after whisky, a dozen whisky bottles concealed around his consulting room. Omid Djalili is a comedian rather than an actor but he is pitch perfect in this role, with the girth of a well fed consultant. He stops to growl at the patients as he invents theory after theory to explain why everyone else is deranged or in denial in his forthcoming book as Orton lampoons the psychiatric profession as possibly the craziest of them all.

Djalili will laugh maniacally and then stop suddenly and stare wide eyed and looking deranged. Samantha Bond too is on top form as the warring and shrieky Mrs Prentice whom her husband says has gone to a meeting of her coven. Poor Geraldine will end up in a straitjacket and with her beautiful blonde hair shorn. Georgia Moffett is excellent as the very pretty but naive Geraldine subjected to Dr Prenticeís questionable interviewing tactics who gamely wears the page boyís outfit as mistaken identities abound and people miss each other using one of the four connecting doors. Jason Thorpe brilliantly plods in true straight man police style searching for the missing part of Winston Churchill and Nick Hendrix is frisky and fly as the cheeky page boy and a delight in his long blonde wig and frock.

Ortonís really inventive script is stuffed with witticisms, the hilarious performances and Foleyís magnificent direction make this a cracking night out.

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What the Butler Saw
Written by Joe Orton
Directed by Sean Foley

Starring: Omid Djalili, Tim McInnerny, Samantha Bond, Georgia Moffett, Jason Thorpe and Nick Hendrix
Design: Alice Power
Lighting: Johanna Town
Music and Sound: Ben and Max Ringham
Running time: One hour 55 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0844 482 9675
Booking to 25th August 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 26th April 2012 performance at the Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, London WC2R 0NH (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)

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