A MASTERCLASS in fearless comic writing is coming to a Basingstoke stage, brought by London Classic Theatre. 

The touring theatre company is bringing What The Butler Saw to The Haymarket from Tuesday, May 21 to Saturday, May 25. 

Within the pristine walls of his private psychiatric clinic, Doctor Prentice is interviewing a new secretary. Geraldine wants the position but seems underqualified and uncertain about her parentage. Mrs Prentice appears, flushed and in urgent need of a drink, following an illicit encounter with Nick Beckett, blackmailer and bell boy at the Station Hotel.

In the meantime, Doctor Rance, a Government Inspector and Sergeant Match, a policeman, arrive amidst increasing chaos with searching questions of their own.

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Basingstoke Gazette: Holly Smith as Mrs Prentice and Jack Lord as Doctor Rance in What The Butler SawWhat The Butler Saw is Joe Orton’s final, most ambitious play, manic farce and masterclass in fearless comic writing. No institution, political view or tradition is safe, as Orton focuses his wicked sense of humour on a range of targets, including the establishment, an ex-Prime Minister, cross-dressing, misogyny, and the medical profession. He brings together an array of distinctive characters, placing them in a series of improbable situations, unflinchingly exploring comic territory few playwrights before or since have dared to visit.

During Orton's short, dazzling career, he shocked, outraged, and delighted audiences with his riotous black comedies, including Loot and Mr Sloane. His final play, What the Butler Saw, premiered at Queen’s Theatre on 27 January 1969.

Artistic director of London Classic Theatre, Michael Cabot said: “I’m delighted to be directing What The Butler Saw. I’ve always been a massive admirer of Orton’s work and this play in particular. It’s undeniably a ground-breaking, challenging piece.

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"Orton was firmly into his stride as a playwright and determined to push boundaries. Primarily, it’s a brilliantly constructed farce, but it also explores territory that allows Orton’s wicked sense of humour free reign. No one is safe!

"The play was first performed at the end of the 1960s, causing something of an outcry, so it will be fascinating to see what audiences make of it in 2024.

"I’m very excited to be working with an ensemble of terrific actors, most of whom are making their LCT debuts. And our fabulous creative team, designer Bek Palmer and lighting designer Hector Murray, are in the process of creating a unique visual feast for our audiences.”

The production is suitable for ages 14 and over (contains strong language and subject matter which the playwright very much hoped audiences would find offensive).

Tickets are priced at £29 (Friday-Saturday), £25 (Tuesday- Thursday), £22 (2.30pm). Over 65s £2 off, under 25s and f/t students £12 (includes £4 booking fee).

Contact the Anvil Arts box office on 01256 844244 or visit anvilarts.org.uk/events/what-the-butler-saw.