Essay about What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton

What the Butler Saw is a play written by the English playwright Joe Orton in the 1960s. It is a farcical and absurdist comedy that centers around the chaos and confusion that ensues when a psychiatrist’s office is visited by a series of absurd characters, including a cross-dressing hotel porter, a sexually promiscuous nurse, and a dim-witted police constable. The play is known for its dark humor, sexual innuendo, and irreverent portrayal of authority figures.

One of the main themes of What the Butler Saw is the subversion of traditional gender roles and sexual norms. The character of Dr. Prentice, the psychiatrist at the center of the play, is portrayed as a stuffy and uptight authority figure who is constantly thwarted by the sexually suggestive and gender-nonconforming characters who enter his office. The play’s treatment of gender and sexuality is often irreverent and transgressive, as characters engage in cross-dressing, sexual role-playing, and other forms of non-normative behavior.

Another important theme in What the Butler Saw is the satirical portrayal of authority figures and the institutions they represent. The play takes aim at the medical establishment, the police, and the government, poking fun at their pompousness and corruption. The characters of Dr. Prentice, the nurse, and the police constable are all shown to be self-serving and dishonest, and their attempts to maintain their authority are constantly thwarted by the chaos and absurdity that surrounds them.

One of the most memorable aspects of What the Butler Saw is its fast-paced and absurdist sense of humor. The play is full of clever wordplay, slapstick humor, and unexpected plot twists, and it keeps the audience guessing as to what will happen next. Orton’s wit and irreverence are on full display in the play, and he takes delight in poking fun at societal norms and conventions.

In conclusion, What the Butler Saw is a classic example of the absurdist and farcical genre of theater. Through its satirical portrayal of authority figures and subversion of traditional gender and sexual norms, it challenges the audience to think critically about the world around them and to question the status quo. Its clever humor and irreverent wit make it a timeless and enjoyable work of theater that continues to be relevant and entertaining today.