Thursday 3rd May to Saturday 5th and Tuesday 8th May to Saturday 12th May 1984
Directed by Jo German
A frantic farce, 'What the Butler Saw' is set in a psychiatric clinic yet there isn't a madman in sight. The bizarre proceedings stem from Dr Prentice's efforts to conceal his attempted seduction of his prospective secretary. What follows is a hilarious spectacle of disintegration; normality crack and the characters descent into mental, physical and sexual confusion.
'What the Butler Saw', was Joe Orton's final play. Completed in July 1967 (less than a month before his death) it was first staged in March 1969 (nearly 2 years later) which was also the year that Bench Theatre was formed. Audiences were both shocked and appalled at the overt sexual references and lack of respect for authority and morality. Indeed, the first performances were greeted with shouts of "filth". Now regarded as Orton's finest play it is considered by many as a contemporary classic and by some as one of the funniest plays ever written.
This classic farce is set in a private psychiatric clinic run by Dr Prentice. He is trying to avoid the attentions of the inspector, Dr Rance and at the same time, both interview and seduce the young and impressionable Geraldine Barclay.
Dr Prentice's wife is fond of the bottle and none too squeamish about her sexual partners and the resulting confusion, lost and mistaken identities, nymphomania, transvestism, incest, blackmail and bribery all conspire to provide a play with frantic pace, dropping trousers, doors opening and classic English humour. Orton uses the newly found freedoms of the decade to take a surreal look at the world around him, fusing witty word-play with a lunatic zeal.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. Bench Theatre also staged this play again in 2009, as part of its 40th anniversary celebrations under the direction of Mark Wakeman.
|Dr Prentice||David Penrose|
|Geraldine Barclay||Jude Salmon|
|Mrs Prentice||Jane Hart|
|Nicholas Beckett||David Brown|
|Dr Rance||Peter Corrigan|
|Sergeant Match||Peter Colley|
|Stage Manager||Robbie Cattermole|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Terry Cattermole|
A frantic farce, 'What the Butler Saw' is set in a psychiatric clinic yet there isn't a madman in sight. The bizarre proceedings stem from Dr Prentice's efforts to conceal his attempted seduction of his prospective secretary. What follows is a hilarious spectacle of disintegration; normality cracks and the characters descent in to mental,physical sand sexual confusion. Identity is discounted, the characters' grip on reality fades and as the confusion grows, the play moves from the ridiculous to the murderous, from daydream to nightmare.
"You may speak freely in front of me - I represent Her Majesty's government, your immediate superiors in madness."
"My wife is a nymphomaniac. Consequently like the Holy Grail, she is ardently sought after by young men.
Madness is all in the mind. For a well-ordered day-trip into lunacy, you can't do better than the Bench Theatre's production of Joe Orton's 'What The Butler Saw'. This slick, well-paced, and terribly funny production is a triumph of black farce, all the better for the intimate auditorium of Havant Arts Centre. The action, set in a psychiatric clinic, starts with Dr Prentice's failed seduction of his prospective secretary. The unexpected intervention of his frustrated wife, then a born-again nutty psychologist working for the Government, create a fast-moving farrago of sex-and-identity swops.
Watch the boundaries of sexology break down when an everyday erotic dalliance gets totally out of hand. See nubile bodies stripped to the bare minimum before your very eyes. And what indeed does the butler see? You must await the very private and personal appearance of the Right Hon. Winston Churchill to find out. "The sane must appear as strange to the mad, as the mad to the sane" says the sinister and questionable Dr Rance. Fortunately, we have a clear-eyed view of the distinction, thanks to lucid performances and good team-work from David Penrose, Jude Salmon, Jane Hart, David Brown, Peter Corrigan and Peter Colley. Pete Holding and the stage crew ensured a smooth run though a mad, mad world with a beautifully clean and clinical set.
The audience reaction to Churchill's last stand was probably the most interesting feature of the first night. Joe Orton had to submit to the Lord Chancellor in his day, whereas Bench director Jo German can tie up the end of this modern production by invoking, without shame, the best traditions of classical comedy. "What the Butler Saw" continues tonight and tomorrow and from Tuesday to Saturday next week.
The News, 4th May 1984