The Much Ado About Nothing Press night but did they like it?
Rehearsal pics of Ben Whishaw in Hamlet, Old Vic 2004

From The Wire to wit: Dominic West is Butley

DominicWest Butley is one of those classic misanthropic literary characters that says such naughty things you laugh against your better judgement.

He's a bored English Literature lecturer at a London University, sardonic, profligate, self-centred with a penchant for daytime drinking. Not surprisingly his wife Anne (Amanda Drew) is leaving him for another man, his friend and colleague Joseph (Mark Hutson) is leaving him for his own space and another man, Reg (Paul McGann), and to top it all the students are rebelling.

Butley is full of self-loathing which prevents him from pulling out of the downward spiral in which he finds himself. He rails against what he sees as the injustice of it all in the only way he can with words of delicious wit that cut to the bone.

And it is a very funny wit. However, there is a 'but' in Butley and as incredibly impressive as the Duchess Theatre set was (I've never seen so many books on stage) and as strong as the performances were, I couldn't help thinking that the play somehow got lost.

Butley is a fairly static, the action is set in the protaganist and Joseph's office, characters come and go but essentially they sit around and talk. Nothing wrong with that but from eleven rows back in the stalls you feel detached, as if all the actors efforts together with lines diminish the further from the stage they get.

I'd love to see this production in a much smaller space - Hampstead Theatre, upstairs at the Royal Court or even the Donmar where you can really appreciate the fruits of the actors labour more fully. It is also a play that you probably need to revisit to pick up all the tasty morsels in the script.

It's getting three stars from me and runs at the Duchess Theatre until 27 August. After the performance there was a cast and director Q&A which you can listen to via the What's On Stage website. And there are some lovely production shots on this website where you can marvel at the books.


Easy-peasy one this, Dominic West stars alongside Mr W in the upcoming BBC drama The Hour. But not content with that Mark Hutson was in the film Atonement which starred another The Hour cast member, Romola Garai.

Incidentally Mr W was also at the theatre on Thursday evening, watching Katherine Parkinson in School For Scandal at the Barbican. That little titbit brought to you by the power of Twitter.