REVIEW: Noises Off by Michael Frayn
Director Tara Buchanan writes in her programme notes that Noises Off, “has been the hardest play I have ever directed”. Hard, maybe, but worth it? Definitely.
We join the production of “Nothing On” at its dress rehearsal and meet the usually unseen director Lloyd, assistant stage manager Poppy and general handyman, Tim as well as the cast struggling to bring a short rehearsal schedule to a satisfactory conclusion. What follows in “Noises Off” propels us on one of the funniest journeys in British theatre.
The cast were superb. Victoria Fay as Brooke/Vicki found exactly the right tone of disengaged presence to credibly ignore the chaos all around her, her stillness the pin around which the catherine wheel of catastrophe whirled. David Morley as Lloyd commanded, cajoled and wheedled performances from his troupe, his predilection for the younger females of the company rendering him powerless to prevent off stage relationships infecting his carefully wrought production.
Lizzie Hutcheson as Dotty/Mrs Clackett switched between the two characters in mid sentence and performed as if born to the role. Nick Carn as Garry/Roger wooed both Dotty off stage and Vicki on with panache and, in shepherding an uncomprehending Vicki through the final act, perfectly captured the desperate search for meaning and order when all sense is lost. Paul Hurley, anxiously searching for motivation and depth; Zoe Morgan as the monger of gossip and dispenser of wisdom and David Harding as the alcoholic but well meaning old hand, all passed the one liners, props and comedy around without an unplanned mishap, sure of foot and wholly in control of their craft. Elly Tipping as the put upon and long suffering ASM with a secret to be inevitably blurted and Adrian Bowd, the knackered hand gamely wrestling with door knobs, cast members, floral tributes and absent players perfectly portrayed the second fiddles with the panache of first violins.
The real backstage crew had their moment in the sun, changing the set before our very eyes in a choreography as fraught with danger as any played out on the stage. It was good to recognise their efforts and also good to be introduced to Ruth Wallis’s Boobies (google it) to add to the fun.
But back to the start. Tara Buchanan, the orchestrator of madness, the genius of the place. Welcome to The Stables Theatre, do not leave us. Encore, encore!