"What the Butler Saw" is a curious beast - employing the traditional tropes and actions of a British sex-farce for a deeper look at sexuality, society, psychiatry and authority, taking everything to brutal extremes as characters are stripped of identity and clothing, beaten, wounded and in a gratuitous deus-ex-machina, reconciled and sent out to face the world again. It's a hard piece to get right - Joe Orton's script is incredibly verbose as two lead characters, both psychiatrists, attempt to diagonse each other and those around them in a desperate battle for some semblance of control. As the scars they leave behind become more and more apparent, the veneer of civilisation gets ripped further and further away and the choice is to either be appalled or laugh.
Fortunately, Liz Bradley's production manages to keep things largely on the side of dark comedy, with a drilled-to-perfection cast perfectly embodying their characters as conclusions are leapt to and characters rush in and out of the multidoored set, designed by Quentin Mitchell. David Cannell gives just enough world-weariness to the somewhat sleazy Dr Prentice to take the edge off, Lainie Hart's Mrs Prentice parrys verbally with him with aplomb in endless good humour, and Peter Holland as the paranoid inspector, Dr Rance, deals with large walls of dialogue as he rants out his crackpot psychological theories on what lays beneath all the confusion (I don't think I've ever seen him go quite so red in the face as in this play). On the younger side of the cast, Zoe Swan is good-natured enough to never make us feel particularly sorry for the increasingly awful treatment the script piles upon her, Glenn Brighetti has a suitable sleazy charm as the on-the-make Nicholas, and Thomas Hyslop deploys largely confusion as the befuddled Sergeant Match.
A hilariously twisted production with a bit to chew over in the mind on the drive home as you realise just what you've been laughing at is just what the times demand, and while this is largely sold out for the rest of the season, it's absolutely worth the begging, borrowing or stealing to catch it if you can.