What the
Butler Saw

By Joe Orton
Directed byJim Sharman

  • Venue Upstairs Theatre
  • Dates 26 Feb – 11 Apr 2004

There’s no butler and any passing resemblance to a naughty West End sex farce ends with the deliberately prurient title. Instead, what Michael Billington describes as “Joe Orton’s richest and funniest play” is also one of the greatest of all stage comedies. Like Oscar Wilde on fast-forward, brain-bending one-liners and triple entendres tumble on top of one another at increasingly dizzying speed. The plot, too, never pauses for breath. It free associates its way to complete anarchy: each absurdity ricocheting logically off the previous one like marbles in a chaos theory experiment.

Whether you see it as a black satire on the abuse of power, a savage assault on ‘respectability’, a post-Freudian dark night of the sexual soul or simply as a work of profound mischief, Orton’s wit and invention are as dazzling and fresh as ever.


By Joe Orton
Directed byJim Sharman
Set Design Brian Thomson
Costume Design Alice Lau
Composer & Sound Design Basil Hogios
Assistant Director Christopher Hurrell
Stage Manager Juliette Kingcott


Isabella Dunwill
Nicholas Eadie
Max Gillies
Sam Haft
Deborah Kennedy
Michael McCall

Production images by Heidrun Lohr

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