What The Butler Saw – Soulpepper

By Adam Collier

Soulpepper is producing What The Butler Saw at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. It is being presented until September 18, 2010.

When the red curtain was drawn, two characters were onstage.

It was unclear to me where they were. To the left on stage there was a wide desk and tall bookcase, suggesting the office of psychiatrist. To the right a gurney enclosed by a thin plastic drape, the type you might see around a hospital bed.

It took me a while to catch on that this was supposed to be a psychiatric hospital.

That What The Butler Saw did not clearly establish a location (usually something Soulpepper is good at) left me wondering what was happening, and why it was happening.

Though there were pockets of laughter, the audience was mostly quiet through the first act.

“Why did they bother?” I heard a woman say to her companion in the row ahead of me as we were shuffling out for the intermission.

My friend said that she was enjoying the show as we spoke in the warm evening air outside the theatre. “And the woman beside me loved it,” she added.

But the tone of What The Butler Saw is misogynistic. And its glib treatment of sexual abuse had me in recoil – involuntarily shaking my head at times.

I returned to my seat with arms crossed. During the second act I was slightly more engaged at times, because the entrances and exits are done with clockwork precision.

But still, it didn’t add up to entertainment for me.

And despite all the ostentatious displays of intended wit – the play is often inarticulate and lacking in any type of insight when it comes to its core subject matter: sex.

By the time we see gunplay on stage, about four-fifths into the action, I was just waiting for the whole thing to end.

My friend was similarly turned-off. I would not recommend this play.


What The Butler Saw plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill Street, in the Distillery district) until Saturday, September 18th. It plays Monday through Saturday at 7:30pm

– The production features Oliver Dennis (“Match”), Graham Harley (“Rance”), Brandon McGibbon (“Nicholas”), Brenda Robbins (“Geraldine”), Blair Williams (“Dr. Prentice”)

What The Butler Saw was written by Joe Orton, and directed by Jim Warren. The set design was by Glenn Davidson; Judith Bowden did the costume design, Bonnie Beecher did the lighting design.

[M1]This is a little harsh isn’t it? Can you soften it and make it more constructive