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Take a peep at Joe Orton’s famous farce What The Butler Saw this May

6 min read

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6 min read


You’d be crazy to miss Joe Orton’s magnificently manic farce What The Butler Saw at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Tuesday 14 May to Saturday 18 May!

What the butler saw
Alex Cardall as Nicholas Beckett

Joe Orton’s final, most ambitious play is a masterclass in fearless comic writing and biting social commentary and is NOT to be missed.

No institution, political view or tradition is safe in What The Butler Saw, as the celebrated playwright 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. Orton brings together an array of distinctive characters, placing them in a series of improbable situations, unflinchingly exploring comic territory few playwrights have dared to visit before or since.

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…

John Kingsley (Joe) Orton, playwright, author and diarist was born in Leicester in 1933. During a short, but dazzling career in the London theatre world, he shocked, outraged, and delighted audiences with his riotous black comedies, including Loot, The Erpingham Camp, The Ruffian on the Stair and Entertaining Mr Sloane.

What the butler saw
John Dorney as Doctor Prentice

But what else do you know about the infamous playwright and gay icon?

Here are five fascinating facts about Joe Orton:

· Joe failed his Eleven Plus exams in 1944 due to missing school through ill health (he suffered from asthma attacks) but went on to win a scholarship to RADA in 1951 and also took elocution lessons!

· Joe met Kenneth Halliwell – an actor and writer seven years his senior – at RADA who would become Orton’s friend, mentor, lover and, eventually, his murderer.

· Joe wrote mischievous letters to public authorities under the pseudonym Edna Welthorpe and other aliases throughout his career.

· Joe was arrested and sent to HM Prison East Church in Kent for six months in 1962 for stealing and defacing 72 library books and removing 1,653 plates from art books.

· Joe Orton was tragically battered to death in 1967 by his lover and mentor, Kenneth Halliwell, aged just 34. He never witnessed his final play What The Butler Saw being performed on stage.

Pay homage to one of Britain’s greatest post-war dramatists whose works helped to define British 1960s culture and take a peep at What The Butler Saw this May.

Joe Orton’s What The Butler Saw is at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Tuesday 14 May to Saturday 18 May with evening and matinee performances.

Tickets from £16.50 with concessions available for 1894 Club Members and Group and Schools rates.

Contains strong language and subject matter which the playwright very much hoped audiences would find offensive. Age Guidance 14+ Please call the Grand Theatre Box Office on 01253 290190 or visit our website for full listings, bookings and further information.

· And don’t forget! You can access the very best seats in the house, plus exclusive tickets discounts and priority booking on top shows as a member of Blackpool Grand Theatre’s 1894 Club. Add on to that free postage, free parking, special invites and access to the 1894 Club Box on higher packages… This loyalty club ticks all the boxes! Visit for full details

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