Laying out a smorgasbord of politically-incorrect taboos in deliberately bad taste, attacking society’s hypocrisy and the established order with his delicious brand of outrageous and subversive provocation, New Theatre presents Joe Orton’s What The Butler Saw for a limited season from 4 October 2018.
Libidos run riot in this darkest of farces, stuffed full of twists and turns, mishaps and changes of fortune, coincidences and lunatic logic, as six characters gradually lose the plot, their wits and/or their clothes.
Highly controversial when it premiered in 1969, What The Butler Saw maintains its ability to shock, even though what society deemed unacceptable 50 years ago has fluctuated over time, the play remains a joyous and very, very silly celebration of queerness.
Following their production of Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane in 2012, New Theatre is delighted to be giving this, his final play, a long-overdue Sydney revival, with director Danielle Maas making her New Theatre debut.
Maas is a graduate of AADA (now AIMDrama), Artistic Associate of Sydney Chamber Opera, a member of Directors Lab for the 2016 Melbourne Festival, and holds a Masters of Advanced Theatre Practice (Distinction) from the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, London. Recent credits include Assistant Director to Kip Williams on Cloud Nine (STC) and Assistant Director to Andrew Davidson on Xerxes (Hampsted Garden Opera).
“Orton is one of my favourite playwrights,” says Maas, “and his final work is enormously challenging: technically monstrous, with more entrances and exits than any other play in history; textually dense with subversive language, and a masterpiece of farce. It’s like choreographing a ballet whilst conducting a symphony. I suppose I’m drawn to it because it’s utterly impossible and totally offensive, and that seems like a great night out in any context.
“I hope audiences leave having rediscovered laughter as a form of meditation for an array of ideas: the institutional abuse of power, the patriarchal use of jargon as one-upmanship in the pursuit of status, the danger of repression, the beauty of queerness and the challenge of communicating what you want and then going after it.”
The production design by Tobias Manderson-Galvin is being realised by Aeva O’Dea (costumes) and Tom Bannerman (set), and one of Australia’s most accomplished lighting designers, Martin Kinnane, makes a welcome return to New Theatre.
The cast of six reaches across the spectrum of diversity: recent NIDA graduate Ariadne Sgouros is of Greek heritage; Amrik Tumber identifies as gay and has Indian heritage; and Andrew Guy, co-host of Channel 10’s The Project, is a transgender male. The cast also features Madeleine Carr, Jake Fryer-Hornsby and Martin Quinn.
In keeping with the ‘queer’ nature of the play, the director has gender-switched a number of the roles, so the usually male-identified characters of ‘Dr Prentice’ and ‘Nick’ are being played by female actors, while the roles of ‘Geraldine’ and ‘Mrs Prentice’ are being played by males.
Joe Orton (1933 – 1967) was an English playwright and author. After winning a scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met Kenneth Halliwell, an actor and writer seven years his senior. Halliwell would become Orton’s friend, mentor, lover and, eventually, his murderer.
Between 1964 and 1967, Orton contributed to an exciting working class culture that swept through the nation. A promiscuous and openly gay man at a time when homosexuality was actively persecuted by the police, Orton was the rising star of an “alternative British intelligentsia”.
His first stage play, Entertaining Mr Sloane, was a huge success while his second, Loot, won the coveted Evening Standard award for Best Play. His other works include The Ruffian on the Stair, The Erpingham Camp, Funeral Games, The Good and Faithful Servant, and the screenplay, Up Against It.
Director: Danielle Maas Featuring: Madeleine Carr, Jake Fryer-Hornsby, Andrew Guy, Martin Quinn, Ariadne Sgouros, Amrik Tumber Production Designer: Tobias Manderson-Galvin Lighting Designer: Martin Kinnane Sound Designer: Georgia Condon Assistant Costume Designer: Aeva O’Dea Assistant Set Designer: Tom Bannerman Accent Coach: Alistair Toogood Production Manager: Gundega Lapsa Production Assistant: Mark G Nagle Stage Manager: Angela Atkinson Assistant Stage Manager: Bernadette Fam
What The Butler Saw
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 4 October – 3 November 2018 (previews: 2 & 3 October)
Information and Bookings: www.newtheatre.org.au
Image: courtesy of New Theatre