Review / Comedy shines through the twists and tangles

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Peter Holland as Dr Rance and Lainie Hart as Mrs Prentice. Photo: Alexandra Pelvin.

Theatre / “What the Butler Saw”, by Joe Orton. Directed by Liz Bradley. Canberra Rep. Until September 26. Reviewed by

IN the words of that immortal song from “Singin’ in the Rain”, sometimes you’ve got to “make ’em laugh”, which is just what the team behind this production of “What the Butler Saw” set out to do, and heartily achieved.

Though they did more than that, as this classic, intelligent update on an old-school French farce from Joe Orton is about so much more than his rapacious wit.

He also has a capacity to draw characters that are so well rounded and full of personality the cast were able to just pour themselves into them. Which let the raft of social and political issues Orton boldly critiques spill out over the course of the show without once letting the comedy slide.

This is a play that used its comedy as the primary device to let Orton’s divisive commentary run rife.

Though it wasn’t just socio-political commentary running rife in this play. The cast gets every opportunity to do that, too.

In what becomes a quick-paced romp around Dr Prentice’s private clinic – as the sexually deviate doctor (David Cannell) and his wife (Lainie Hart) drink volumes, the comic twists and tangles become increasingly absurd, thanks in a large part to ludicrously conceived psychological rampages from the lampoonable Dr Rance (Peter Holland).

The ensemble, which also included Zoe Swan, Glenn Brighenti and Thomas Hyslop, clicked on this their opening night, and while it felt a shade disorganised by the final insane climax, this was no doubt a fitting way to draw the rambunctious and clever evening to a close.

A classy Canberra Rep production full of the best medicine a doctor could order.

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