Dominic West as Ben Butley © Harpers Bazaar
I don't often go to the theatre and this was a challenging play to keep-with sometimes. The protagonist Ben Butley is an intellectual, quick at drawing his tongue and Dominic West (US show The Wire) delivers this performance at an unforgiving verbal pace with apparent relish and a few tempo hiccups as a result; the audience is left to catch up.
The play is based on a day on which Butley, a Literary Professor, makes several discoveries that effectively leaves him behind in the lives of those around him. He jostles (on occasion physically) with the joy of a solitary man at needling and interrogating the neatness and "in point of fact"ness of others. In particular, toying with timorous Joey his once "protege" and now colleague. They are co-habitees at home as well as at work - is this proximity they maintain a clue to their real attraction? Butley gleefully goes on to ridicule a series of earnest young students, and mock the affected masculinity of Joeys gay lover from "up north" and his estranged wife, on her would-be suitor, who all come through his door. This is really a one-man act, and the other actors are a rotation of knock-outs with only slight dialogue.
But I also blame myself for missing some of the finer dialogue and points of the play. Veteran theatre-goers would love this play. It was well worth seeing for Dominic West's dynamic performance, he does some comical turns in regional accents and he pitches perfectly the physical idiosyncrasies of a college professor; the slouchy shoulders, knock kneedness and gait of locked-adolescence in man.