‘Noises Off’ was written by The Observer reporter and playwright, Michael Frayn. It is considered by many to be the ultimate farce and this version is farce at its very best. After a life with the press, Frayn went on to translate Chekhov plays and write on a multitude of topics such as philosophy and spy novels. For his skills he was awarded a Writers’ Guild Lifetime Achievement.
This farce is being presented by KNUTS at the Camelot Theatre, 16 Lochee Street, Mosman Park nightly at 7:30pm until Saturday 12th May. There is one matinee on Saturday 5th May at 2.00 pm. The seats are comfortable and the seating rake excellent.
Otstar, a professional theatre company - worse than any community theatre in WA – is going through its last rehearsal. Is it the final run? Or the tech run? No one seems to know. Even Lloyd, the director (Ian Bolgia) seems to have given up.
The story of the farce that the incompetent company is mounting is based in the home of the Brents (Graham Mitchell and Angelique Malcolm). The owners are on holiday in Spain and have left their loopy housekeeper, Dotty (Claire Munday) to look after their home.
Not knowing that the housekeeper is still on the premises, the estate agent responsible for letting the property during the owners’ absence, Garry Lejeune (Adam T. Perkins) has brought his fancy woman, Brooke (Summer Williams) around for a relaxing tour of the bedrooms.
Whilst the occupants are busy, there is a break-in. The burglar, Selsdon Mowbray (David Meadows) a big booming, Brian Blessed-like man, who has severe memory problems due to a self-inflicted health problem staggers around the stage.
Whilst the play within a play is taking place, the poor stage manager, Timm Allgood (Shirley van Sanden) is having trouble getting the cast to unite, the props to work and the show to get anywhere near being ready for the opening night. Her assistant, Poppy (Melissa Kiiveri) is a bundle of nerves and constantly near tears.
Blended in within the storyline and the company’s performance, are the true happenings behind the set. For the second act, the whole set rotates through 180 degrees and, with us watching from behind the set, the first act is repeated; now however, we learn of the goings-on off stage. There are several love affairs, plenty of intense jealousy and stacks of total incompetence.
Will the show ever get off the ground?
The title ‘Noises Off’ normally refers to intentional sound effects produced at the side of the stage – here it is mainly the squabbling of the actors.
The director, Stephen Lee, who has long been known for his wonderful Shakespearean productions, shows his magnificent talent for directing farce. His total concept of how this farce should be brought to the stage is amazing.
The play calls for a cast capable of depicting a fairly dim-witted team that are in turn presenting a cast with a dire script. The cast members add a great deal of depth to every character. The humour, the myriad of small hilarious touches (Belinda can handle my champagne bottle any time!) and brilliant lateral thinking by the director and cast has combined to produce the best version of this play that I have ever seen.
The pace is rapid, but the characterisation remains solid. The intonation, accents, delivery and voice control top notch. The body language has been perfectly considered. The multitude of doors all open and close with split-second timing.
Every actor has to portray at least two characters, ‘themselves’ and the very different character in their diabolical play. What talent.
I have to admit that I find the script annoying, but this is part of the writer’s scenario of the ‘behind the scenes’ exposé.
The director has helped the cast develop the various personae. Dotty (Claire) is brainless one minute and passionate the next. Brooke (Summer) is deliciously vague and ‘blonde’ then a powerful woman that has been cheated on. Selsdon (David) gives us a powerful assured performance in a Shakespearean style, whilst being totally unaware of the plot. Garry (Adam) shows his cool romantic side on stage followed by the highly active bouts of hate and jealousy behind the scenes. I could write pages on each character, because without exception, every cast member was outstanding, many are proven classical actors who are now showing their amazing ability to change to farce.
Even if you have seen this play before, see it as it was intended to be seen. Interested in producing or acting in farce? This is farce at its very best, with superb performances.
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