Brighton Festival – Butley

Simon Gray’s pithy play of a curmudgeonly academic intent on revelling in schadenfreude saw Dominic West on excellent form as the title character. Bounding around the stage, both affectionately and maliciously bullying his colleague and friend Joey (and any who enter their shared office) – life is a bitter game made from others’ misery, be it accidental or orchestrated by Butley himself in this guilty comedy. So boisterous is he, we couldn’t help but like the mischievous misanthrope, articulate and creative in his trouble-making. Martin Hutson as Joey was fabulous as the put-upon audience and reluctant partner in crime to Butley’s stirring, always too much the coward to stop his pal but secretly delighting in the disruptions. Supporting equally strongly but in a different way was Penny Downie as Edna, collateral damage in Butley’s quest to entertain himself.

Like a bear with a sore head, drinking and smoking throughout, Ben Butley strikes out at all – from ex wife to best friend. So much nasty fun.

Theatre Royal, 26 May (running until 28 May)
Rating: ★★★★☆
Victoria Nangle

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