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What the Butler Saw

Published Monday 14 June 2010 at 10:12 by Anne Hopper

Many sacred cows are slaughtered by Joe Orton at his wicked best with a script that dizzily lampoons religion, politics, mental health professionals, homosexuality and even, heaven forbid, Sir Winston Churchill.

A scene from What the Butler Saw at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

A scene from What the Butler Saw at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick Photo: Keith Pattison

It’s as pertinent now as it was at the end of the not so permissive sixties. The theatrical tradition of farce is also outrageously mocked and this is where Ian Forrest’s production doesn’t quite hit the mark.

It just wasn’t fast enough. We had too much time in act one to dismiss the implausibility of the action on stage - and, despite the strenuous efforts of the cast of six, the evening was one of polite laughter instead of the belly laughs this play should command.

Act two recovered, with flashes of the frenetic activity needed but by the climactic ending it had once again lost the necessary pace to reduce us to helpless laughter. The problem seems to lie, at least this early in the five-month run, in the interactivity between the two doctors - the two laudable performances from Robert Calvert as Dr Prentice and Stephen Ley as Dr Rance were just not slick enough to maintain the farcical pace.

But Patrick Bridgman was simply hilarious as Sergeant Match, he and Maggie Tagney as Mrs Prentice made a formidable team, with excellent support from the two young players Amy Ewbank and Adam O’Brian as Geraldine and Nicholas.

As always, Martin Johns produced an elegant, solid and functional setting for the farcical slamming of multiple doors. Given time I’m sure the early inconsistencies will simply disappear.

Production information

Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, June 11-November 6

Joe Orton
Ian Forrest
Theatre by the Lake Productions
Patrick Bridgman, Robert Calvert, Amy Ewbank. Stephen Ley, Adam O'Brian, Maggie Tagney
Running time:
2hrs 15mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014