What The Butler Saw

Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Torture, blackmail and nymphomania are just some of the goings-on in What the Butler Saw, Joe Orton's savage exploration of power and neurosis.

Ostensibly a scathing critique of psychiatry, the play subjects all authority to scrutiny as it mercilessly skewers the pompous and hypocritical.

With characters conforming to archetypes of classic farce (albeit propelled by Orton's mischievously warped logic), it is no surprise that naive secretary Geraldine Barclay should at the outset be asked by Dr Prentice, her prospective employer, to remove her clothes.

From then on, a host of tormented individuals parades in a mad traffic across the stage, conducted under the officious eye of unhinged psychiatrist Dr Rance.

Despite often demanding dialogue and a continuous frenetic pace, all the cast combined to produce a truly entertaining overall performance.

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However, in pivotal roles David Newham and Noel Jones were particularly impressive.

Newham's Dr Prentice was perfectly judged, his desperate efforts to conceal the attempted seduction of Miss Barclay alternating between cool efficiency and frenzied exasperation.

Jones, meanwhile, played a masterful comic turn, his Dr Rance a half mad-professor, half dotty old aunt.

While Orton's play may have lost shock value with the passing of time, this production demonstrates that it remains just as entertaining and relevant to today's audiences.

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