WHAT THE BUTLER SAW: Joe Orton
Curve Theatre, Leicester to 18 March 2017
Runs: 2h, one interval
BO: 0116 242 3595
Review Alexander Ray Edser, 09 03 17
Not for the faint-hearted but it still works fine
BUTLER is Orton’s last play. Written in 1969 it is brilliantly plotted as a traditional farce; the action is unremitting and the language sparkles and crackles. It is an almost maniacal mixture of sex, sexual innuendo, and insanity. This is Orton grabbing the establishment by its genii Talia and beating it up; fuelled with anger and impishness all sacred cows must fall. Thrilling, herein lies the dangers too; it is almost too fast, there are almost too many superbly crafted lines, and most of all, is the humour which smashed taboos in its time now tasteless?
Foster’s production and perhaps the Leicester audience prove that the humour still works, and that although we may feel uncomfortable, the laughs come aplenty. This is an extremely difficult script to bring to life. The Curve team did not entirely succeed in the first half; there was a tendency to rush and there was a hard acoustic with a reverberation which further muddied the dialogue. In the second half, though, both these problems seemed resolved. The acoustic was warmer, and the company sat back on the material, they relaxed with it allowing the play to find its own rhythm and it truly came alive.
The performance I saw is naturally early in the run; it is likely the production is finding its feet. On the evidence of the second half, this will settle to a fine production, that proves the play is not only of its age but for our time too.
A strong company; once they relaxed handling text and action with aplomb. Rufus Hound provides a Dr Prentice rooted in the real world, and increasingly out of his depth (the character that is.) Jasper Britton is a strong Dr Rance confidently expressing sanity while clearly demonstrating to us he is as mad as the veritable Hatter.
Nikolai Foster makes a bold choice to revive this dangerous play and has successfully unlocked the madness with reality. Michael Taylor’s white setting is both harshly clinical and stylishly modern.
Rufus Hound: Dr Prentice
Ravi Audial: Sergeant Match
Jasper Britton: Dr Rance
Jack Holden: Nicholas
Dakota Blue Richards: Geraldine
Catherine Russell: Mrs Prentice
Director: Nikolai Foster
Designer: Michael Taylor