What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton
Tenterden Town Hall
Director Fraser Johnson
What the Butler Saw is a two-act farce written by the English playwright Joe Orton. He began work on the play in 1966 and completed it in July 1967, one month before his death. It premiered at the Queen’s Theatre in London on 5 March 1969.
The play consists of two acts—though the action is continuous—and revolves around a Dr. Prentice, a psychiatrist attempting to seduce his attractive prospective secretary, Geraldine Barclay. The play opens with the doctor examining Geraldine Barclay in a job interview. As part of the interview, he persuades her to undress. The situation becomes more intense during Dr. Prentice’s supposed “interview” with Geraldine Barclay when Mrs Prentice enters. When his wife enters, he attempts to cover up his activity by hiding the girl behind a curtain. His wife, however, is also being seduced and blackmailed by a Nicholas Beckett. She, therefore, promises Nicholas the post as secretary, which adds further confusion, including Nicholas, Geraldine and a police officer dressing as a member of the opposite sex.
Dr. Prentice’s clinic is also faced with a government inspection, led by Dr. Rance, which reveals the chaos in the clinic. Dr. Rance talks about how he will use the situation to develop a new book: “The final chapters of my book are knitting together: incest, buggery, outrageous women and strange love-cults catering for depraved appetites. All the fashionable bric-a-brac.” A penis (“the missing parts of Sir Winston Churchill“) is held aloft in the climactic scene.