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What the Butler Saw

What the Butler Saw
Your Price: $15.95 CDN
Author: Joe Orton
Publisher: Samuel French
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 78
Pub. Date: 2010
ISBN-10: 0573617775
ISBN-13: 9780573617775
Cast Size: 1 woman, 4 men

About the Play:

What the Butler Saw was one of Royal National Theatre of Britain's top 100 plays of the 20th century.

What the Butler Saw is a full-length comedy by Joe Orton. A farce, it tells of Dr. Prentice's ever-more frantic attempts to conceal his attempted infidelity with an applicant for a secretary's job, and that's when things really get complicated. Intended for mature audiences, What the Butler Saw features Orton's wicked wit and breakneck dialogue, but no actual butler.

What the Butler Saw is set in an exclusive, private mental health clinic. The chase is on in this breakneck comedy of licensed insanity, from the moment when Dr. Prentice, a psychoanalyst attempting to seduce an attractive prospective secretary Geraldine, instructs her to undress. Unwittingly surprised by his wife, interrupting his sordid intentions, he hides the girl. The affairs multiply as Mrs. Prentice, being seduced and blackmailed by young bellhop Nicholas Beckett, has promised him the secretarial post, kicking off a maniacal tour de force involving a state inspector, slamming doors, and enough twists and turns, mishaps and changes of fortune, coincidences and lunatic logic to furnish three or four conventional comedies. Wild, risqué, and ferociously funny, Joe Orton's classic farce takes aim at everything from sex to psychiatry.

What the Butler Saw premiered in 1969 at the Queen's Theatre in the West End of London, starring Sir Ralph Richardson, Stanley Baxter and Coral Browne. The New York production later won the Obie Award as Best Foreign Play of The Season. Hailed as a modern comedy every bit as good as Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, this play is regularly produced, read and studied.

Cast: 1 woman, 4 men

What people say:

"Joe Orton's last play, What the Butler Saw, will live to be accepted as a comedy classic of English literature." — Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"He is the Oscar Wilde of Welfare State gentility." — The Observer (UK)

"Hilarious, outrageous … toying with words as if they were firecrackers … the ending is a delight that Oscar Wilde might have dreamed up in a sequel to The Importance of Being Earnest." — The New York Times

"Brilliant, witty, the funniest show so far this season." — NBC TV

"Madly antic humor." — Associated Press

"Hilarious ... Joe Orton's best comedy." — CBS TV

About the Playwright:

Joe Orton (1933-1967) was one of Britain's most celebrated writers noted for his black comedies, which combine genteel dialogue with violent and shocking action. He collaborated artistically with Kenneth Halliwell for ten years before achieving a breakthrough with his solo work with the staging of Entertaining Mr. Sloane and the radio broadcast of The Ruffian on the Stair in 1964. At the height of his fame in 1967, he was due to meet with a producer about a Beatles film for which he had written a screenplay when he was found murdered – the jealous Halliwell had beaten him to death before taking his own life.

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