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Theatre Review (Singapore): ‘What the Butler Saw’ by Joe Orton

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The Stage Club presented Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw, which ran at the DBS Arts Centre from 28th to 31st May 2014.

butler

What the Butler Saw is a farcical play about Dr. Prentice (Hunter Blake Wood) who has regular affairs with his patients. He mistakens Geraldine (Emilie Oehlers) for a patient, when actually she has come to interview for a secretarial job. He then convinces her to shed her clothes and seduces her, just as his wife (Neena Khattar) enters the practice. Throw in a promiscuous bellboy who is the wife’s lover and some suspicious policemen and what you get is an outrageous story involving mistaken identities, cross dressing and strange plot twists.

If you like slapstick and whacky humour, you will surely enjoy What the Butler Saw. However, if you have more delicate sensibilities and enjoy humour that’s more sophisticated and elegant, not to mention politically correct, then this play might not be suitable for you at all.

As the story develops, major issues such as rape and incest are joked about in such a crude manner that it seems that these plot points were written more for shock value than for humour. After all, it is difficult to laugh at a woman mocking how she was raped by a stranger who turned out to be her eventual husband when rape is a very real threat to many women around the world.

Having said that, the acting in What the Butler Saw is good, although the night I attended Wood make a few mistakes with his dialogue. Also the director Gavin Low makes very good use of the stage as there was consistent movement between the characters that added some interest to this piece.

So if a zany and insane story entertains you, this play will certainly be one you’ll enjoy.

 

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.