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Joe Orton

What the Butler Saw

+ Q&A with Orton’s biographer John Lahr, Orton’s sister Leonie Orton and actor/Orton’s personal friend, Kenneth Cranham

Orton’s last play offers a cascade of breathtaking and brilliant one-liners in the style of Oscar Wilde.

Image from What the Butler Saw + Q&A

Theatre Night. BBC 1987
Dir Barry Davis
With Dinsdale Landen, Prunella Scales, Timothy West, Tyler Butterworth
85min

Completed just before his death at the hands of his lover Kenneth Halliwell in 1967, the play represents the apotheosis of Orton’s technique. Here he finds the magic formula for fusing the best of the British farce tradition with a cascade of breathtaking and brilliant one-liners in the style of Wilde: ‘I represent Her Majesty’s government, your immediate superiors in madness.’ With perfect casting, director Barry Davis captures the fast, furious and outrageously irreverent comedy, while at the same time staring into the heart of Orton’s troubled psyche as the play descends into something darker and more prophetic.

See other screenings of What the Butler Saw.

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