Since winning the 1982 London Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy, ?Noises Off? has been one of the most regularly performed plays both by professional and amateur companies all over the world. Noises off is theatre jargon for a commotion off stage but this play describes the way the commotion off stage is carried on to the stage by a company of ?has-been? and ?never-were? actors putting on a touring production of a farce called ?Nothing On?.
The first act is at the dress rehearsal for ?Nothing On?. There are only hours to go before the opening performance and everything is going wrong. One actor, Dotty Otley (played by Charlotte Coales), cannot remember her entrances and exits, another, Brooke Ashton (Eline Van der Velden), seems more concerned with her appearance than the play, a third, Garry Lejune (Alex Arbuthnot) cannot remember his lines and all seem to have personal problems. The director (Duncan Pearse) is desperately trying to pull all this together while maintaining a relationship with both Brooke and the Assistant Stage Manager, Poppy (Soizic le Courtois) and the Stage Manager (Richard Chatwin) has spent all weekend without sleep putting up the set which is now ?fighting back? with jamming doors, doors that won?t close when they are meant to and general wobbles.
The second act is one month later at a performance of the play. Relationships between cast members have deteriorated and they are allowing this to carry over in to the performance. In this act the set has rotated so the audience are sitting back stage so hear the play but see the antics of the actors off stage and the attempts of the stage manager and assistant stage manager to keep the play going. Act three is at the end of the tour and we are once again out front watching the play. Now the cast?s personal problems have become the most important thing and the performance of ?Nothing On? collapses.
Farce is a particularly difficult form of theatre to carry off and this reporter was impressed by both Andr? Refig?s direction and the skill shown by all the actors. Matthew Wallace as nervous wreck Frederick Fellowes, Iain Heaton as the senile and drunkard actor Selsdon Mowbray and Lilly Topham as the ever helpful Belinda Blair were particularly brilliant.
The set (designed by Andrew Chamberlain) was also good, despite being responsible for the late start of the play on Monday evening, wobbling and threatening to collapse at any moment to add to the general on-stage chaos.
Overall this was an excellent performance and it was a shame that the audience was so small. However those that went obviously enjoyed it with laughter sufficient for a much larger audience.
?Noises Off? is showing every night until Thursday, starting at 7.30 in the Union Concert Hall and this reporter would recommend going to see it.