Butley (play)

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Written by Simon Gray
Date premiered 14 July 1971
Place premiered The Criterion Theatre, London
Original language English
Genre Drama
Setting An office in a London university
Official site

Butley is a play by Simon Gray set in the office of an English lecturer at a university in London, England.[1] The title character, a T. S. Eliot scholar, is an alcoholic who loses his wife and his close friend and colleague – and possibly male lover – on the same day. The action of the dark comedy takes place over several hours on the same day during which he bullies students, friends and colleagues while falling apart at the seams. The play won the 1971 Evening Standard Award for Best Play.[citation needed]


  • Ben Butley
  • Joseph Keyston
  • Miss Heasman
  • Edna Shaft
  • Anne Butley
  • Reg Nuttall
  • Mr Gardner


Butley was first performed at the Criterion Theatre in London on 14 July 1971, produced by Michael Codron and directed by Harold Pinter, with the following cast:

Alan Bates won the 1971 Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for his performance.[citation needed] The role of Butley was subsequently taken on by Alec McCowen and Richard Briers in the same production. Bates reprised his performance the following year in a Broadway production directed by James Hammerstein at the Morosco Theatre, where it ran for 14 previews and 135 performances. Bates won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance, and Gray was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play.

A successful 2006 limited-run Broadway revival at the Booth Theatre was directed by Nicholas Martin. It starred Nathan Lane and Dana Ivey, who was nominated for the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

A 2011 London West End production of the play was produced for the Duchess Theatre, directed by Lindsay Posner with a cast including Dominic West, Paul McGann, Penny Downie, Amanda Drew, and Emma Hiddleston. The production started at the Brighton Festival from 25 May 2011 and in the West End from 1 June 2011.

In his introduction to the play, Harold Pinter wrote:

Simon Gray asked me to direct Butley in 1970. I found its savage, lacerating wit hard to beat and accepted the invitation... The extraordinary thing about Butley, it still seems to me, is that the play gives us a character who hurls himself towards the destruction while living, in the fever of his intellectual hell, with a vitality and brilliance known to few of us. He courts death by remaining ruthlessly – even dementedly – alive. It's a remarkable creation and Alan Bates as Butley gave the performance of a lifetime.[1]

1974 film

A 1974 film adaptation Butley directed by Pinter starred Alan Bates, Jessica Tandy, Richard O'Callaghan, Susan Engel, and Michael Byrne.


  1. ^ a b Gray, Simon. Simon Gray: Plays 1. London: Faber and Faber, 2010.

External links

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