What The Butler Saw

Farce by Joe Orton. A psychiatric clinic becomes a world of carnivalesque chaos when rampant libidos, mistaken identities, undressing and cross dressing add layer upon layer of michievous confusion to this farcical masterpiece first seen in London in 1969.

1969: Original West End London Production at the Queen's Theatre

1975: 1st West End London Revival at the Whitehall Theatre

1979: London Revival at the Young Vic Theatre

1979: 2nd West End London Revival at the Old Vic Theatre

1990/1991: 3rd West End London Revival at the Wyndham's Theatre

1995: London Revival at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

2005: 4th West End London Revival at the Criterion Theatre

2012: 5th West End London Revival at the Vaudeville Theatre

Joe Orton's other plays seen in London include Loot and Entertaining Mr Sloane. Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell are the subjects of Simon Bent's play Prick Up Your Ears which was inspired by the John Lahr biography and the diaries of Joe Orton.


Original West End London Production 1969

Opened 5 March 1969, Closed 31 May 1969 at the Queen's Theatre (now Sondheim Theatre)

The cast featured Stanley Baxter as 'Dr Prentice', Julia Foster as 'Geraldine Barclay', Coral Browne as 'Mrs Prentice', Hayward Morse as 'Nicholas Beckett', Ralph Richardson as 'Dr Rance', and Peter Bayliss as 'Sergeant Match'.

Directed by Robert Chetwyn, with designs by Hutchinson Scott, and lighting by Joe Davis.


1st West End London Revival 1975

Previewed 9 July 1975, Opened 16 July 1975, Closed 16 August 1975 at the Royal Court Theatre
Transferred 20 August 1975, Closed 10 January 1976 at the Whitehall Theatre (now Trafalgar Theatre)

The cast at London's Royal Court and the West End's Whitehall Theatre featured Michael Medwin as 'Dr Prentice', Jane Carr as 'Geraldine Barclay', Betty Marsden as 'Mrs Prentice', Kevin Lloyd as 'Nicholas Beckett', Valentine Dyall as 'Dr Rance', and Brian Glover as 'Sergeant Match'.

Directed by Lindsay Anderson, with designs by Jocelyn Herbert, lighting by Nick Chelton, music by Alan Price.

Presented by the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre as the final play in a three-play 'Joe Orton Festival'.


London Revival 1979

Previewed 31 May 1979, Opened 1 June 1979, Closed 23 June 1979 at the Young Vic

The cast featured John Darrell as 'Dr Prentice', Tina Jones as 'Geraldine Barclay', Kate Versey as 'Mrs Prentice', Philip Davis as 'Nicholas Beckett', James Carter as 'Dr Rance', and John Labanowski as 'Sergeant Match'.

Directed by Michael Attenborough, with designs by Marty Flood, and lighting by Chic Reid.


2nd West End London Revival

Previewed 17 October 1979, Opened 22 October 1979, Closed 15 December 1979 (in repertory) at the Old Vic

The cast featured Benjamin Whitrow as 'Dr Prentice', Isla Blair as 'Geraldine Barclay', Prunella Scales as 'Mrs Prentice', Nickolas Grace as 'Nicholas Beckett', Frank Windsor as 'Dr Rance', and David Bacon as 'Sergeant Match'.

Directed by John Dove, with sets by John McMurray, lighting by Bill Wardroper, and music by Donald Fraser.

Presented by the Old Vic Company.


3rd West End London Revival 1990 / 1991

Previewed 3 December 1990, Opened 4 December 1990, Closed 19 January 1991 at the Hampstead Theatre
Previewed 22 January 1991, Opened 24 January 1991, Closed 27 April 1991 at the Wyndham's Theatre

The cast at London's Hampstead Theatre and the West End's Wyndham's Theatre featured Clive Francis as 'Dr Prentice', Camille Coduri as 'Geraldine Barclay', Sheila Gish as 'Mrs Prentice', Ben Porter as 'Nicholas Beckett', Joseph Maher as 'Dr Rance', and Gary Olsen as 'Sergeant Match'.

Directed by John Tillinger, with sets by Kenny Miller, costumes by Tom Rand, lighting by Ken Billington, and sound by John A Leonard.


London Revival 1995

Previewed 24 February 1995, Opened 2 March 1995, Closed 7 October 1995 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

The cast featured John Alderton as 'Dr Prentice', Debra Gillett as 'Geraldine Barclay', Nicola Pagett as 'Mrs Prentice', David Tennant as 'Nicholas Beckett', Richard Wilson as 'Dr Rance', and Jeremy Swift as 'Sergeant Match'.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, with designs by Mark Thompson, lighting by Rick Fisher, and sound by Jonathan Suffolk.


4th West End London Revival 2005

Previewed 14 July 2005, Opened 21 July 2005 to 20 August 2005 at the Hampstead Theatre
Transferred 24 August 2005, Closed 22 October 2005 at the Criterion Theatre

The Hampstead Theatre's acclaimed revival of Joe Orton's classic comedy What the Butler Saw in London starring Jonathan Coy and Belinda Lang

The cast at London's Hampstead Theatre and the West End's Criterion Theatre featured Jonathan Coy as 'Dr Prentice', Joanna Page as 'Geraldine Barclay', Belinda Lang as 'Mrs Prentice', Geoff Breton as 'Nicholas Beckett', Malcolm Sinclair as 'Dr Rance', and Huw Higginson as 'Sergeant Match'.

Directed by David Grindley, with designs by Jonathan Fensom, lighting by Jason Taylor, and sound by Gregory Clarke.

"David Grindley'a direction is as carefully micro-managed as an episode of Fawlty Towers, stripping Orton's script down to devilishly choreographed detail - whether it be the crowing of legs, the arching of eyebrows or the dropping of trousers... Jonathan Coy is stressed rather than frantic as the lascivious shrink desperate to get his hands, and more, on his secretary. Belinda Lang is brilliantly bossy as his nymphomaniac wife who is, nonetheless, 'harder to get into than the reading room at the British Museum'. But it's Malcolm Sinclair, as the deranged psychiatric inspector who steals the show. He seems to have stepped out of the Tardis with his clipped hair, horn-rimmed specs, narrow suit and even narrower mind. Brilliantly terse, he turns Orton's sexual satire into a deliriously crazed, poker-faced delight. You'd be mad to miss it." The Daily Mail

"People in the gallery shouted 'filth' and booed at the curtain-call for the 1969 premiere of Joe Orton's final farce... In the Sixties, people still had some faith in the morality of public figures. What The Butler Saw was calculated to inspire the outrage of the conventionally minded and to amuse the more liberal. It fails on both counts in 2005 and Orton's wit wilts... The performances reflect an underlying doubt about Orton's valuation of his characters. Dr Prentice is supposed to be desperate to cover his adulterous tracks even though his wife runs free and easy herself. Yet Jonathan Coy remains glumly untouched or energised by fear of discovery. He exudes torpor and stifles comic opportunities. Malcolm Sinclair's Dr Rance, revealed as a lecher, too, musters the menace of authority but misses out on craziness. Geoff Breton, as the opportunist hotel pageboy, sounds and behaves like a middle-class university student rather than the cocky, cockney chancer of the plawyright's fantasising." The London Evening Standard

What the Butler Saw in London at the Criterion Theatre opened on 24 August 2005 and closed on 22 October 2005


5th West End London Revival 2012

Previewed 4 May 2012, Opened 16 May 2012, Closed 28 July 2012 at the Vaudeville Theatre

A major revival of Joe Orton's classic comedy What the Butler Saw in London starring Omid Djalili and Samantha Bond

The cast featured Tim McInnerny as 'Dr Prentice', Georgia Moffett as 'Geraldine Barclay', Samantha Bond as 'Mrs Prentice', Nick Hendrix as 'Nicholas Beckett', Omid Djalili as 'Dr Rance', and Jason Thorpe as 'Sergeant Match'.

Directed by Sean Foley, with designs by Alice Power, lighting by Johanna Town, and music and sound by Ben Ringham and Max Ringham.

Omid Djalili's London theatre credits include playing 'Fagin' in Oliver! the Musical (Drury Lane 2009).

Samantha Bond's recent West End theatre credits include Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband (Vaudeville Theatre 2010), Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (Duke of York's Theatre 2009), Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance (Haymarket Theatre 2003), William Shakespeare's Macbeth (Noel Coward Theatre 2002), and Christopher Hampton's adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Ambassadors Theatre 1987).

Tim McInnerny's London theatre credits include Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre 2007), and The Misanthrope (Roundhouse Theatre 1981).

Sean Foley's West End credits include Ducktastic! (Noel Coward Theatre 2005), The Play What I Wrote (Wyndham's Theatre 2001), and Do You Come Here Often? (Vaudeville Theatre 1998).

"As a comment on the still-rigid 1960s codes of gender and sexuality, the play is grubby, chilly and pretty funny; yet director Sean Foley is only interested in making the audience laugh very loudly at every straining joke. Joe Orton's comic subversions, in which the sane are mad and those in power even madder, take on the garishness of pantomime. Tim McInnerny's body almost seems to weep as it contorts in ever more painful poses but in farce, panic needs to be slowrising not boiling over from the second the curtain rises. Meanwhile, a barking, one-pitch Omid Djalili completely misses Dr Rance's sinister authority." The London Metro

"Witty and shocking, Joe Orton is also sometimes extremely astute... Just occasionally, especially towards the end, there are the moments when the comedy seems to veer from the black into the merely sick. It's a distinction hard to define, and different for everybody anyway; but while black comedy is an honest acknowledgment that there is a funny side to death as well as life, sick humour seems to invite us, or even command us, to laugh at the spectacle of human suffering, which isn't quite the same thing... This is still a terrific, no-holds-barred production, perfectly attuned to the provocative schoolboy spirit of the playwright, and just as it should be." The Sunday Times

"'Filth!' cried the outraged audience at the 1969 premiere of Joe Orton's farce What The Butler Saw, but many judged it shockingly good. These days, momentary glimpses of a young man's dangly bits, of women in their underwear and the surviving (private) part of a statue of Winston Churchill have lost the power even to startle. And Sean Foley's woefully mirthless production succeeds only in being shockingly tedious. He makes a big mistake by starting off the lunacy at a frenetic pace... It's impossible to care what's going on or why because none of the action is even vaguely rooted in reality. There is absolutely nothing at stake for any of the characters, all crazy or crazed from the start... Orton's point is that no one is wholly male or female and everyone's a bit mad, but you'd be bonkers to want to find that out this way." The Mail on Sunday

What the Butler Saw in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 4 May 2012, opened on 16 May 2012 and closes on 28 July 2012.