Some of Britain’s best loved entertainers – including Jim Broadbent, Lenny Henry, Alexei Sayle, Lesley Garrett, Hannah Gordon, David Warner and Lynda Baron – put on their glad rags last night to welcome a new production of Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw to the West End.
Thanks to the hospitality of the show’s producers I and seenit.co.uk writer Phil Newman went along to see the opening night performance.
As if you didn’t know, the play is set in the consulting rooms of psychoanalyst Dr Prentice who, through series of ever more complex misunderstandings, finds himself surrounded by a wife, hotel bellboy, policeman and secretary who are variously naked, cross dressing or swapping identities.
The opening night audience lapped up the laughs created by a combination of energetic performances from stars Omid Djalili, Tim McInnerny, Samantha Bond and Georgia Moffett and Orton’s razor sharp dialogue.
If you ever wanted proof that good comedy never ages than that proof is currently playing at the Vaudeville Theatre. Be sure to book a ticket – the run is limited until 25th August.
At the after show party McInnerny told us that the key to making the play work was keeping the energy going throughout and said that slacking “even for a minute” would break the audience’s spell.
When we likened his character’s frenetic collapse into madness to John Cleese’s performance in Clockwise McInnerny accepted the comparison but – quite fairly – pointed out that he has to maintain his performance over two hours and without the aid of editing.
He also spoke of his love for theatre and the “personal connection” live performances create between the performers and audience members.
If you’ve ever seen Tim McInnerny interviewed and thought ‘he seems like a lovely man’ then I’m delighted to confirm your suspicions.
Also in attendance were Moffett’s parents Peter Davison and Sandra Dickinson – who looked stunning – who both visibly glowed with pride at their daughter’s success.
Davison told us that everything Moffett has achieved “is down to her own hard work” and said she had made him “very proud”.
To talk to any of the cast was like queuing for the hit ride at a theme park – they were massively in demand with queues of well wishers that seemed only to grow as the evening went on.
Before the show Lynda Baron told journalists “in times like this people need a good laugh and this is the show for a good laugh”. I couldn’t agree more – if you’re looking to escape the dreary mood of austerity Britain then get yourself down to the Vaudeville Theatre.
Final brag: Last night also gave me a chance to belatedly congratulate Lenny Henry – another truly nice man as it turns out – on his fantastic performance in last year’s National Theatre production of Comedy of Errors.