Grindley Revives Orton’s Butler Saw at HampsteadDate: 1 June 2005
Three years ago, director David Grindley had a huge hit at Hampstead Theatre with his 25th anniversary production of Mike Leigh’s Abigail's Party, which subsequently transferred for an extended season in the West End and toured the UK. No doubt, Grindley – and the venue – hope to emulate that success with his revival of Joe Orton’s farce What the Butler Saw, running from 19 July to 20 August 2005 (previews from 14 July).
Orton's last and, many would say, funniest play was first produced in 1969, two years after the author's untimely death. In it, sex-obsessed psychiatrist Dr Prentice is frustrated in his attempts to seduce a secretary by the arrival of his nymphomaniac wife, an over-enthusiastic inspector and a dim-witted policeman.
Joe Orton’s short list of other completed plays include Entertaining Mr Sloane and Loot. In 1967, aged only 34, he was brutally murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, who then committed suicide.
In addition to Abigail's Party, Grindley has had major West End success with his revival of RC Sheriff’s First World War drama Journey's End, which returns for a run at the New Ambassadors, its fourth West End venue, in September (See News, 18 Apr 2005). Grindley’s other recent West End credits include National Anthems, starring Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic, and just opened this week, the world premiere of Neil LaBute’s Some Girls, starring Friends’ David Schwimmer at the Gielgud. No casting has yet been announced for the Hampstead production.
Though undoubtedly a modern classic, What the Butler Saw represents something of an odd choice for Hampstead, a venue dedicated to new writing. The earlier revival of Abigail's Party, which was the final production in the original Hampstead Theatre building, had been seen as a one-off, marking the 25th anniversary of Mike Leigh’s seminal Seventies play which premiered at the old theatre in 1977.
Currently running in rep at Hampstead, two new plays concerning living under the threat of terrorism - Dennis Kelly’s Osama the Hero and Jane Bodie’s A Single Act, both directed by artistic director Anthony Clark - conclude their limited seasons on 11 June 2005 (See News, 30 Mar 2005).
They’re followed by the London premiere of Helen Cooper’s Three Women and a Piano Tuner from 20 June to 9 July 2005 (previews from 16 June). The production - directed by actor Samuel West, who takes over as Sheffield Theatres’ artistic director next month (See News, 22 Oct 2004) – was first seen last summer at Chichester Festival. Having completed her piano concerto after ten years, Ella is intent on getting it performed, but she needs the help of Liz and Beth, with whom there are some old scores to settle first. The cast are: Eleanor David, Gareth David-Lloyd, Jane Gurnett and Phoebe Nicholls.
- by Terri Paddock