‘Another opening, another show.’ Or is it? Michael Frayn’s award winning Noises Off is doing a Britain-wide tour.
A self-referential piece of farcical comedy writing about the backstage shenanigans of a travelling theatre company, it is based on Frayn’s own experiences and observations where the suspicions are that there may be more fun off stage than on.
The mock Tudor cottage with its lived-in dented sofa and stairway leading to a multitude of doors looks the perfect backdrop for a bedroom farce. And indeed it proves to be in this epitome of finely organised chaos.
From a techie-cum-dress-rehearsal of the play within a play, Nothing On, at Weston Super Mare to backstage during its tour at Ashton-under Lyne, to the final show in Stockton-on-Tees, this is a farce to end all farces.
Among the private tragedies of the cast and the gossip of who’s having it off with whom, are the comic capers of the characters of Nothing On, whose details are in the fitting programme within the actual programme for Noises Off.
From the mild indulgence of the ‘daily woman’ Mrs Clackett , played with comic aplomb by a pom- pom slippered Maureen Beattie, with her plan to watch her boss’s TV with a plate of sardines, to Roger Tramplemain (David Bark-Jones), the opportunistic estate agent looking for sex in someone else’s comfortable cottage, to Mr and Mrs Brent (Chris Larkin and Sasha Waddell), the tax exiles sneaking a weekend at home, they are all up to something dodgy.
The director of Nothing On Lloyd Dallas (Neil Pearson), who is at his wit’s end with the cast and playing the dirty rat with two of the company, appears among the audience to great effect at the start. There is art imitating life imitating art.
During the first two Acts, while full of funny scenes worthy of Brian Rix, the piece did not reach its full madcap potential. It is in Act 3 that the frenetic performance, with much trouser dropping and double entendre, reaches its energetic apogee.
Here it is like a cross between an episode of Benny Hill and the Keystone Cops full of clowning, precision timing and brilliantly executed stunts and acrobats under the top of range direction of Lindsay Posner.
The final curtain epitomises the whole farcical episode brilliantly. This classic comedy requires a committed (and very fit) cast to cope with the fast-paced continuity and this production has commitment in spades from the nine actors.
Geoffrey Freshwater is a joy as the pukka, boozy old lovie, Selsdon Mowbray, whose lines escape him like elusive moths when he plays the world weary caricatured burglar. Thomasin Rand makes her role as Vicki, the wide eyed lovely prancing in her sussies, look suitably vacant and Simon Bubb is utterly credible as the hapless, put upon stage hand Tim as is Danielle Flett as the apologetic Poppy.
The form of farce is a bit passé so its humour may be lost to a new generation of theatre goers, only seeming ludicrous to those in the know.
That said, Noises Off is chock full of fun, sheer daftness and pretty gentle mockery all carried off with tremendous skill and energy. Anything that generates such relatively innocent laughter has got be good.
Times: Tue 4 to Sat 8 June 2013 Evenings 7.30pm | Matinees Wed & Sat 2.30pm Suggested 12+ (some adult language & sexual situations)
Premium seats £29.50 | General Tickets £27.50 - £14