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Doors galore, mistaken identities, dropped trousers, a frenetic pace and some killer lines – Joe Orton’s final play (he was bludgeoned to death by his lover in 1967) has all the ingredients of a successful farce.

But Sean Foley’s misjudged revival of this exercise in comic subversion starts out manic and has nowhere much to go from there. Working on the principle that more is more, his production manages to kill rather encourage laughter despite a cast which includes Tim McInnerny as predatory psychiatrist Dr Prentice, Samantha Bond as his nymphomaniac wife (who announces that her “uterine contractions have been bogus for some time) and Omid Djalili as visiting inspector Dr Rance.

Set in Dr Prentice’s consulting room, the confusion is sparked by the attempted seduction of the secretary who’s come for an interview and Mrs. P’s off-stage encounter (in a hotel linen cupboard) with a young bell-boy who has stolen her dress and wig.

By the end of what feels like a long evening, most of the protagonists (including Jason Thorpe’s investigating policeman) have variously been shot at, doped, restrained in straightjackets, or dressed up as members of the opposite sex in this heavy-handed account of Orton’s anti-establishment satire which desperately needs room to breathe.

Vaudeville, Strand WC2R 0NH
Tube | Charing Cross
Until 25th August | £25 - £49.50
whatthebutlersawtheplay.com

Image via Simon Annand


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Review: What the Butler saw at the Vaudeville theatre
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