Stage Review of ‘What the Butler Saw’

What the Butler Saw
All scenes take place in a clinic room. Doors off lead to and from the garden, a backroom, and to other parts of the larger building. The opening scene begins quite sedately with Dr Prentice conducting an interview for a secretarial position. Interviewee, Geraldine is soon stripping from behind the curtains at the request of the doctor. This she does unwittingly and without question.

In the meantime, the doctor’s sex starved wife enters unexpectedly and she is wearing only underwear under her coat. Another medical ‘professional’ Dr Rance comes along and provides a madcap diagnosis of the couple’s marital problems. Later a black mailing bell boy, accused of sexual harassment, enters. Finally a policeman and we think the whole thing will settle down.

Of course, it doesn’t settle down, the six make their entrances and exits at different times. The two doctors are the only two characters who remain in their day clothes/white coats throughout. The two youngsters swap identities and therefore their genders too. The policeman is drugged and bloodied by the end. For all of the time Dr Rance continues misdiagnosing everyone to the sordid and most outrageous degree, and so it goes…

Positive comment

This production of ‘What the Butler Saw’ is well cast, the physical work and dialectal skills is exceptional by all players. The subtle interchanges between characters and the full-on tussles are timed to perfection.

Negative comment
The work encompasses all the elements of a farce, but despite all the good work associated with it I was turned off greatly by the script. Written back in the day when sexual innuendo and blunt indiscretion featured high in comedy. I found the humour to be very base; therefore the comedy was boring for the larger part. It wasn’t that I was bored watching, but I wasn’t happy, happy with it either. I’d not left my sense of humour at home particularly, it is just that the play is a product of a time past. I doubt it will appeal when performed in future years. What it will do is act as an exposé perhaps of the kind of social injustices that people once found to be a source for amusement.

Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall who attended press night of What the Butler Saw at The Curve Theatre, Leicester on Wednesday 08 March 2017

Production Photography by Catherine Ashmore

The Curve
My first time reviewing a stage show at The Curve and what a stylish venue for Leicester central! The curved architecture brings a different vibe within its walls, the seating in the auditorium is spacious and allows a little extra leg room than some traditional theatres. The late and highly revered playwright, Joe Orton, having been Leicester born and raised, meant there was much local interest and high anticipation from last night’s theatregoers so the venue had a full house feel; it had a buzzy ‘spirit of place’ about it.


2 thoughts on “Stage Review of ‘What the Butler Saw’

  1. What the Butler Saw at Curve. It’s a play I know so I knew what to expect.

    I think this play does work better as a period piece rather than placing it in a contemporary setting. In a similar way, the broad innuendo based humour of the Carry On films wouldn’t work as well now.

    However, the main problem I had was audibility. The set they had gave the space peculiar acoustics and some of the dialogue was lost. I think that stage is too big for plays anyway and throughout I thought it would’ve worked better in a smaller, more intimate space. The stage in the main theatre at Curve seems to be designed for musicals.


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