Thursday, 14 April 2016

"Noises Off" by Michael Frayn
Nottingham Playhouse
The idea for "Noises Off" came in 1970, when Frayn was watching from the wings a performance of The Two of Us, a farce that he had written for Lynn Redgrave. He noted that it was funnier to see the play from behind the set than as an audience member and thought that one day he would write a play from that perspective, "Noises off" is that play and takes its title from the theatrical stage direction indicating sounds coming from offstage.
Each of the three acts of "Noises Off" contains a performance of the first act of a play within a play, a poor farce called "Nothing On" Act One is the dress rehearsal where we see the cast hopelessly unprepared and having issues with entrances and exits, missed cues, missed lines, doors that won't open or stay shut and bothersome props, including several plates of sardines.
Act Two shows a matinee performance a month later but this time from backstage which shows the deteriorating relationships between the cast and director and falls into disorder before the end of the play.
In Act Three, we see a performance near the end of the ten-week run and the relationships have got even worse. The actors remain determined at all costs to cover up the mounting series of mishaps, but it is not long before the plot has to be abandoned entirely and result to ad-libbing their way to the end of the scene.
There are laughs a plenty here, and I have it on good authority that this is very close to how it sometimes can be behind the scenes of community theatre productions.
Orlando Wells plays the director of "Nothing On", Lloyd Dallas, who as a director is used to juggling and keeping all the theatrical balls in the air, but the juggling also spills into his personal life as well.
Carla Mendonca as Dotty Otley who plays Mrs Clackett, is a wonderful character driven piece who I would love to see playing Mrs Overall in "Acorn Antiques" because of the comedy element of both characters.
Patrick Osborne and Sophia Nomvete play Gary Lejeune/Roger Tramplemain and Brooke Ashton/Vicki are a wonderful pairing as the two who are having an affair and use the house as a meeting place for their illicit tryst, unaware that they are not alone in the house.
Enter the owners, who aren't really there as they are really in Spain for income tax reasons, John Elkington and Becci Gemmell as "Nothing On" actors Frederick Fellowes and Belinda Blair who play husband and wife Phillip and Flavia Brent. Belinda has a habit of revealing which of the cast members are in relationships with each other and Frederick has troubles with nose bleeds when there is any aggression shown, which as you can imagine is quite regular.
The poor assistant stage manager, Poppy, is played by Ritu Arya, and shows Poppy as over-sensitive and unaware of the director's dalliances with one of the other cast members. When this news is revealed, her character becomes ever more sensitive and there's a lovely scene regarding the curtain calls which shows the comic side of the character.
Robin Bowerman as Seldon Mowbray, the distinguished actor with a drink issue, plays the burglar in "Nothing On". There's a wonderful section in Act Two involving a bottle of whiskey which is beautifully choreographed.
And finally the overworked stage manager, who also doubles for Frederick and Seldon, and runner for Lloyd played by Brian Lonsdale.
All of the these characters are wonderfully cast, very funny. I can only imagine that playing a character who is playing another character can't be the easiest of roles but these lot make you believe the character and the character's character.
"Noises Off" is directed by Blanche McIntyre and a brilliant job she does as well. She has created a fast-paced, hilarious piece of slapstick/farce theatre with split second comic timing, made for all the family to enjoy. I'm not sure if it will make anyone sign up to community theatre but but hopefully it will make people go to see more community theatre. You never know, after all it is live entertainment and no two shows will ever be exactly the same so.....
"Noises off" is on at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 30 April 2016.

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