What The Butler Saw (Vaudeville Theatre)

Posted on May 12, 2012


I’m having a bad run with dear Samantha Bond. This is two plays in a row with her in them that have been, well to be frank, a bit rubbish. As much as I adore her, and she’s a great actress, and as much as I enjoy her performances, even in bad pieces, I am starting to wonder if either she is a poor judge of material or her agent needs a good spanking.

this is a simple case of a flop – and I’m not just talking about the flicker of penis

So, as is probably clear, I didn’t enjoy ‘What The Butler Saw’, despite the fact it has all the hallmarks of things I would love. A bawdy farce about relationships and sexual politics. A fine cast and the promise of some nudity – I’ve done more for less. But ‘What The Butler Saw‘ misfires repeatedly, like some men I’ve known. And while it happens occasionally, to misfire repeatedly is a mark of a lack of control.

So where to begin – the text itself is obviously dated, and not in a charmingly ‘slice-of-an-era’ way, more of a ‘ha ha stupid women, let’s get a bit rapey’ kind of way. Sean Foley‘s direction is obvious to the point of tedious. Punch lines are not even just telegraphed, it is as if they’re being preempted by surtitles. The plot develops at such a dull pace, I honestly didn’t care who ended up where.

And that’s a shame, as there is such talent on the stage being obviously wasted. All the actors yell out their lines in a near shouty monotone with the exception of Georgia Moffett who, apart from being ill suited to some of the physical demands of the role (no one would mistake her for a boy) at least tries to play young and stupid with some conviction. Tim McInnerny‘s disintergation is unsympathetic (he’s a rapist essentially, do I care that he’s having a bad day?)

Aside from a few months of well played physical comedy (not nearly enough though) and some one liners that really zing, this is a simple case of a flop – and I’m not just talking about the flicker of penis which instead of being a sexy, funny, shocking moment feels more like a last ditch attempt to rouse the audience from their stupor. If you’re going to revive a 60s farce you’re going to need to be a lot smarter than this I’m afraid.

All one can really do is head out, walk down the road and beg for returns for ‘Sweeney Todd‘.

Verdict: Like serving asparagus at a piss party, this one’s a stinker.

Posted in: Play