Thursday 24th April to Saturday 26th April and Tuesday 29th April to Saturday 3rd May 1997
Directed by Simon Walton
Bored university lecturer Ben Butley shares his office, flat and life with assistant lecturer Joey his former protégé. Set on the first day of term, Butley faces the ultimate breakdown of his marriage and of his intense friendship with Joey. These discoveries made against a background of university politics and activities are greeted with a blistering torrent of repartee and rhetoric that while sardonic, callous and aggressive is also funny, rational and sad.
'Butley', written in 1971 was the fifth of Simon Gray's plays to be produced and while the production, starring Alan Bates, received as many good reviews as bad ones, it was popular and played to packed houses for nearly a year. The title character, a literary professor and T S Eliot scholar, is a suicidal alcoholic who loses his wife and male lover on the same day. This dark comedy encompasses several hours in which he bullies students, friends, and colleagues while falling apart at the seams. 'Butley' was adapted in to a film in 1974 with Bates reprising his title role.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Ben Butley||David Penrose|
|Joseph Keyston||Nick Ashton|
|Miss Heasman||Alice Corrigan|
|Edna Shaft||Ingrid Corrigan|
|Anne Butley||Eve Walker|
|Reg Nuttal||David Hill|
|Mr Gardner||Mike Hickman|
|Lighting and Sound||Andrew Caple|
|Set Construction||Tim Taylor|
|Front of House||Andrew Caple|
The Director would like to thank The Old Town Hall Arts Centre, Steve Wilkins, University Of Portsmouth, Sue Walton, Stuart Cole, MFI.
My problem with Simon Gray's work is that his main characters all seem to be, like the title of last year's Chichester premiere, Simply Disconnected - and not at all engaging.
Ben Butley, a bored university lecturer whose marriages to both female and male partners come to grief, takes refuge from his relationship failures in caustic, sardonic wit. David Penrose, in the Bench Theatre production, does give him a genuinely amused and amusing air, which helps. Yet it is difficult to find anything positive in the play beyond the repartee of academic bitchiness.
Both Penrose and Nick Ashton, as Ben's partner Joey, avoid all sexual caricature and cleverly define their characters with a few deft brush strokes: one a slob, out of control, the other fastidious, in control. But the play seems under-directed by Simon Walton. It needs more variety of tempo and dynamics, more explosiveness.
The News, 26th April 1997