|Booking From:||Wednesday, 1st June 2011|
|Booking Until:||Saturday, 27th August 2011|
|Matinees:||Thursday and Saturday 3pm|
|Evenings:||Monday to Saturday 7.30pm|
Read some reviews of Butley and was convinced by them that I was in for a real treat - oh dear! Is this acerbic wit at its most dazzling? Well all I can say on the subject is that of the approximately 500 people in the Duchess Theatre tonight I counted only about 6 of them that ever laughed at any point. I honestly believe that the management must have paid these 6 to laugh at various points during the play but forgot to tell them when cos I and my two companions just didn't get the joke and nor did the other 491 people in the audience.
It is great to see a Simon Gray play back in the West End. I have read many of his plays as well as his diaries (which were adapted for the stage two years at Chichester in the Minerva and transferred to Trafalgar Studios in the West End) but I have never had the pleasure of watching his work. Dominic West (star of The Wire) plays the title role is this witty, intellectual drama sharply directed by Lindsay Posner.
One of Gray’s earlier plays, university lecturer Ben Butley is in on a path of self-destruction. His day adheres to the rule of bad things happening in lots of three: under pressure at work for encouraging bad behavior in a young female student; his wife is looking to remarry a man whom he despises; his housemate, Joey, seems to have had his head turned by a gay publisher he has been visiting and is subsequently becoming disinterested in Butley himself (this seems to be the worst of the three). Butley, clearly has feelings for Joey that go beyond the usual bonds of friendship. But he suppresses his bisexual tendencies and this manifests itself in his word play. This denial is the core of his unease and ultimately is the reason he is so unhappy - no matter how much he ridicules Joey’s or his wife’s new lovers, it does not make him feel better nor does it stay him from his course of self destruction.
West is terrific as the often acidic Butley. His performance is wickedly enjoyable as he gets the most out of Gray’s dexterous word playing. Very good performances too from Martin Hutson as the timorous Joey and Paul McGann (of Withnail and I fame) as Joey’s new lover. It is a play and production well worth catching. I hope that it may spark a few more revivals of Gray’s work in a similar fashion to the several revivals of Terrance Rattigan’s plays we have seen over the last year or so.
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