Charles Shaughnessy

Epigrams and clothes fly in Taper's 'What the Butler Saw'

Epigrams and clothes fly in Taper's 'What the Butler Saw'

There are no household servants in Joe Orton's "What the Butler Saw," which is appropriately set in a psychiatric clinic. The title, once popular for blue movies, is a British phrase referring to the sexual delights that have long kept domestics peering through keyholes. And, boy, is there plenty to ogle at in this naughty farce.

The play turns audiences into voyeurs, and that may be why it was met with such an angry reception when it premiered in 1969, nearly two years after Orton was slain by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell. Joining in print the chorus of outraged theatergoers, Harold Hobson, esteemed drama critic of the day, described the play as "a wholly...

57°