The second farce on the New Theatre stage to be directed by Jonny Steer, “What The Butler Saw” was a play brilliantly paced and cleverly performed from beginning to end.
Though the first act took its time to really get going, the story certainly moved from merely funny to undeniably farcical! A rather seedy Psychiatrist, Dr Prentice (played by John Franklin) is preparing to seduce the young secretarial hopeful Geraldine Barclay (Jess Mouncer) when interrupted by his wife. In his attempts to hide his misdeeds, he succeeds in dragging both the innocent and the not-so-innocent down with him in a descent into insanity, ending in a startling and completely unexpected revelation.
The cast should be commended for their brilliant characterisation and comic timing. Anna Dubuis’s erratic performance as the tipsy Mrs. Prentice was strong throughout, as was Hugh Williams as the second Psychiatrist, Dr Rance, a character in dubious mental health himself. While it was Tim Watkins as the sexual miscreant Nicholas Bennett, who got the biggest laughs of the night, for me it was Tom Grant in the role of Sergeant Match who really stole the show with his wonderfully comedic portrayal of a dutiful copper caught up in the weirdest of cases.
I can think of nothing better to sum up the evening than the words of a fellow audience member to a passer-by on leaving the theatre: “If you get the chance, go and see this play – I’ve just watched it and it was bloody brilliant!”