What the Butler Saw (play)
What the Butler Saw is a two-act farce written by the English playwright Joe Orton. He began work on the play in 1966 and completed it in July 1967, one month before his death. It opened at the Queen's Theatre in London on 5 March 1969. Orton's final play, it was the second to be performed after his death, following Funeral Games in 1968.
|What the Butler Saw|
|Written by||Joe Orton|
|Date premiered||27 January 1969|
|Place premiered||Queen's Theatre|
|Subject||a couple succeed in extracurricular seductions and frantically try to hide their conquests|
|Setting||an examination room in a private clinic|
- Dr Prentice
- Geraldine Barclay
- Mrs Prentice
- Nicholas Beckett
- Dr Rance
- Sergeant Match
The play consists of two acts - though the action is continuous - and revolves around a Dr Prentice, a psychiatrist attempting to seduce his attractive prospective secretary, Geraldine Barclay. The play opens with the doctor examining Geraldine in a job interview, during which he persuades her to undress. The situation becomes more intense when Mrs Prentice enters, causing the doctor to hide Geraldine behind a curtain.
His wife, however, is also being seduced and blackmailed, by Nicholas Beckett. She therefore promises Nicholas the post as secretary, which adds further confusion, including Nicholas, Geraldine and a police officer dressing as members of the opposite sex.
Dr Prentice's clinic is also faced with a government inspection, led by Dr Rance, which reveals the chaos in the clinic. Dr Rance talks about how he will use the situation to develop a new book: "The final chapters of my book are knitting together: incest, buggery, outrageous women and strange love-cults catering for depraved appetites. All the fashionable bric-a-brac." A penis ("the missing parts of Sir Winston Churchill") is held aloft in the climactic scene.
The original production, having toured briefly from January 1969, opened in the West End at the Queen's Theatre on 5 March. Presented by Lewenstein-Delfont Productions Ltd and H. M. Tennent Ltd, it was directed by Robert Chetwyn and designed by Hutchinson Scott.
- Stanley Baxter – Dr Prentice
- Julia Foster – Geraldine Barclay
- Coral Browne – Mrs Prentice
- Hayward Morse – Nicholas Beckett
- Ralph Richardson – Dr Rance
- Peter Bayliss – Sergeant Match
- Michael Medwin – Dr Prentice
- Jane Carr – Geraldine Barclay
- Betty Marsden – Mrs Prentice
- Kevin Lloyd – Nicholas Beckett
- Valentine Dyall – Dr Rance
- Brian Glover – Sergeant Match
2) A revival in April 1977 at Leicester's Phoenix Arts Centre was directed by Antonia Bird. She realised that the last line of the play had been given to the wrong character, and by referring to Orton's handwritten manuscript was able to give it back to the correct character.
- Clive Francis – Dr Prentice
- Camille Coduri – Geraldine Barclay
- Sheila Gish – Mrs Prentice
- Ben Porter – Nicholas Beckett
- Joseph Maher – Dr Rance
- Gary Olsen – Sergeant Match
- David Horovitch – Dr Prentice
- Kate Winslet – Geraldine Barclay
- Deborah Norton – Mrs Prentice
- Neil Stuke – Nicholas Beckett
- Trevor Baxter – Dr Rance
- Billy Hartman – Sergeant Match
5) In 1995, a Royal National Theatre production of the play premiered in February at the RNT's Lyttelton Theatre and then went on tour prior to returning to the RNT repertoire. Phyllida Lloyd directed the play.
- John Alderton – Dr Prentice
- Debra Gillett – Geraldine Barclay
- Nicola Pagett – Mrs Prentice
- David Tennant – Nicholas Beckett
- Richard Wilson – Dr Rance
- Jeremy Swift – Sergeant Match
- Tim McInnerny – Dr Prentice
- Georgia Tennant – Geraldine Barclay
- Samantha Bond – Mrs Prentice
- Nick Hendrix – Nicholas Beckett
- Omid Djalili – Dr Rance
- Jason Thorpe – Sergeant Match
- Rufus Hound – Dr Prentice
- Dakota Blue Richards – Geraldine Barclay
- Catherine Russell – Mrs Prentice
- Jack Holden – Nicholas Beckett
- Jasper Britton – Dr Rance
- Ravi Aujla – Sergeant Match
- Dinsdale Landen – Dr Prentice
- Tessa Peake-Jones – Geraldine Barclay
- Prunella Scales – Mrs Prentice
- Tyler Butterworth – Nicholas Beckett
- Timothy West – Dr Rance
- Bryan Pringle – Sergeant Match
Channel 4's Blow Your Mind – See a Show series included a short extract from the play. Featuring Brian Cox as Dr Prentice, Frances Barber as Mrs Prentice and Clive Owen as Nicholas Beckett, it was transmitted on 18 September 1995.
- Paul Taylor (26 July 2005). "Reviews: Theatre – What the Butler Saw Hampstead Theatre London HHH". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2008.
-  Lahr, John. Prick up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton. New York: Knopf, 1978, pp. 222, 271–272 ISBN 0394501535
- 'Playgoers' Diary', The Stage, 23 January 1969, p.8.
- "What the Butler Saw". Theatricalia. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- "PROJECTS". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
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