Theatre Night (1985– )
7.3/10
38
3 user 2 critic

What the Butler Saw 

Dr. Prentice, a psychiatrist is attempting to interview an attractive secretary, Geraldine. Unwittingly surprised by his wife, he hides the girl. The affairs multiply as Mrs. Prentice, ... See full summary »

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Tyler Butterworth ...
Nicholas Beckett
...
Dr. Prentice
...
Geraldine Barclay
...
Sergeant Match
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Mrs Prentice
...
Dr. Rance
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Dr. Prentice, a psychiatrist is attempting to interview an attractive secretary, Geraldine. Unwittingly surprised by his wife, he hides the girl. The affairs multiply as Mrs. Prentice, being seduced and blackmailed by young bellhop Nicholas Beckett. Written by Ulf Kjell Gür

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lingerie slip | See All (1) »

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Comedy | Drama | Romance

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24 May 1987 (UK)  »

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Gloriously Anarchic Farce set in a Mental Home
21 February 2016 | by (London) – See all my reviews

When WHAT THE BUTLER SAW premiered in London in 1969, two years after Joe Orton's violent death, the reaction was predictably outraged. As Dr. Rance, Ralph Richardson appeared terribly uncomfortable; one audience member exclaiming "Oh, Sir Ralph, how could you!" as they noisily left the theater. Despite his undoubted talents, Baxter could not rescue the show as it closed after a short run.

Watching this THEATRE NIGHT production, we might wonder what all the fuss was about. The subject-matter is certainly contentious, with an extended joke about Sir Winston Churchill's missing member, coupled with repeated references to sex and sexuality; but the play as a whole is joyously anarchic, as Joe Orton takes a Jonsonian pleasure in debunking contemporary attitudes towards mental health, psychiatry, homosexuality, transvestism, marriage and melodrama, amongst other things.

The cast thoroughly enjoy themselves with dialogue that can only be described as deliciously Wildean in tone. As Dr. Prentice, the late lamented Dinsdale Landen begins the production with an air of total self-assurance as he asks his tyro secretary Geraldine Barclay (Tessa Peake-Jones) to remove her clothes prior to seducing her. As the action unfolds, so his attitude changes as he finds himself overwhelmed by circumstances. Timothy West's Dr. Rance is quite obviously insane, but he delivers his lines with such ringing conviction that no one has the stomach to challenge him. The two female leads, Peake-Jones and Prunella Scales, spend a large part of the production in a state of déshabillé, but this seems perfectly reasonable in a performance where reason and unreason have been crazily subverted. Bryan Pringle turns in a bewildered cameo as Sergeant Match, even though his boxer shorts seem way too big for him.

Shot on video-tape in a single set, Barry Davis's production relies a lot on clever camera-work and effective performances to entertain viewers. There are some wonderful moments - especially when Nicholas Beckett (Tyler Butterworth) is caught in flagrante delicto with only a police officer's helmet to protect his modesty. The camera cuts to a shot taken from behind a fish-tank, as we watch Beckett running off-screen so as to escape further embarrassment.

WHAT THE BUTLER SAW takes a bit of getting used to, especially for those not conversant with Orton's work, but yields rich rewards, especially for broad-minded viewers.


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