‘But­ler’ de­liv­ers the laughs

An ‘in­sane’ classic 60s so­cial farce fo­cuses on fun­nies

The Tribune (NZ) - - WHAT'S ON -

What The But­ler Saw by Joe Or­ton. Direc­tor Rhys Mills Fox­ton Lit­tle The­atre Re­viewed by Richard Mays In­san­ity, car­nal­ity and sur­re­al­ity abound in this far­ci­cal un-pc romp.

What The But­ler Saw is a child of the swing­ing 60s with en­trenched at­ti­tudes to sex­u­al­ity and gen­der roles, and rou­tine misog­yny clash­ing with a new sex­ual open­ness and an emerg­ing fem­i­nist move­ment.

Two of the male char­ac­ters al­most cheer­fully con­fess to be rapists; there’s cross-dress­ing, gen­der-bend­ing, drugs, in­cest and a gov­ern­ment psychiatry in­spec­tor armed with a li­cence to com­mit, who is a real nut­ter.

This was the era of charis­matic counter-cul­ture psy­chol­o­gist RD Laing and his def­i­ni­tion of in­san­ity as ’’a per­fectly ra­tio­nal ad­just­ment to an in­sane world’’.

The Carry On movies and Benny Hill were tak­ing ‘‘nudge-nudge wink-wink’’ to new lev­els. And then came Joe Or­ton with his bit­ing and bizarre black hu­mour.

The play with its warp­ing of re­al­ity and ridicule of author­ity out­raged when it opened in 1969.

Though it may no longer rouse that ire - and this pro­duc­tion is a toned down ‘‘soft core’’ ver­sion, pos­si­bly to as­suage the sen­si­bil­i­ties of an am­a­teur cast - its hu­mour is still wicked.

That’s thanks largely to Carl Terry as the lust­ful Dr Pren­tice, who in try­ing to se­duce a young fe­male job­seeker sets ev­ery­thing off, and Sue Stock­well as his ‘‘cougar’’ wife. Their ex­pe­ri­ence, de­meanour and tim­ing an­chor the show.

Direc­tor Rhys Mills has it mov­ing along at a good clip on a well thought-out set for a pro­duc­tion strong on the com­edy - less so on the un­der­ly­ing im­pli­ca­tions.

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