Leicester academic to chair expert panel at the British Library

The panel will discuss the lasting impact of Joe Orton’s What The Butler Saw.

Dr Emma Parker, Associate Professor of Postwar and Contemporary Literature in the University of Leicester’s Department of English, will chair a star-studded panel discussion on Joe Orton’s 1969 play What the Butler Saw at the British Library on Tuesday 23 April 2019.

The event, which marks the 50th anniversary of the play’s debut, will see acclaimed actor Timothy West CBE, directors John Tillinger and Nikolai Foster, and actors Hayward Morse and Julia Foster – the original Geraldine – discuss the lasting impact of What the Butler Saw and the contemporary relevance of the issues it addresses.

Dr Parker recently published an article on the same subject in The Conversation. ‘What the Butler Saw: Joe Orton’s savage satire on rape is as relevant now as it was in 1969’ argues that, while the play is often condemned as outdated and offensive, its satire on a society that elides, minimises, normalises and even romanticises rape has much to offer 21st-century audiences – 50 years after its debut, in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp.

On the significance of the panel event, Dr Parker said: “This event brings together, for the first time in 50 years, cast members from the original 1969 production of What the Butler Saw plus acclaimed actor Timothy West and leading directors to celebrate Joe Orton’s final play, widely regarded as his masterpiece. Expect theatrical gossip, critical controversy and lots of laughs.”

The event follows 2017’s ‘Joe Orton: 50 Years On’ celebrations, led by Dr Parker, which saw a series of exhibitions, productions, screenings, talks and publications pay tribute to Orton’s achievements, consider previously overlooked aspects of his work, and recognise his cultural impact and legacy.

The British Library holds significant manuscripts and recordings relating to Joe Orton and his work, including within the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays Collection, which comprises the scripts of all new plays performed in Britain from 1824 to 1968 as submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for licensing.

The University of Leicester owns the Orton Collection, including manuscripts, letters and other original material written, compiled or collected by Joe Orton, plus correspondence and memorabilia received and collected by members of the Orton family. The collection was purchased from the Orton Estate in 1997.