TRCH Ranulph

Theatre Review: Noises Off

16 April 16 words: Ian Douglas
A fist full of Sardines at the Playhouse
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Noises Off. photo: Robert Day

A play within a play. No, a farce within a farce. That’s the premise in a nutshell for this acclaimed script, which first saw the light of day back in 1982 at the Lyric Theatre. Call it post-modern farce. The plot centres on an inept cast of actors putting on a comedy called Nothing On. The curtain rises as they desperately rehearse with less than twenty-four hours to go before, well, the curtain rises.

Unfortunately, their foibles are destined to screw up the production. Alcoholism, memory loss, infidelities, break-ups, loose contact lenses, jealousy, and fainting fits.

But these hapless thespians adhere to the creed that the show must go on. Sadly, their attempts to cover up their mistakes only add to the chaos as the show spirals hilariously out-of-control.

Millennials will be delighted to see Carla Mendonça, fondly remembered as the mother from My Parents Are Aliens. Carla is playing actor Dotty Otley who is playing a housekeeper called Mrs Clackett. (You can see Noises Off, perfect as it is, can be a confusing play to review!) Mrs Clackett is reminiscent of Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques, and Carla gives the character some great accents.

Carla is not the only one turning in a solid, funny performance. The cast all nail their roles. In Act Two we see the play from the stage rear. That is to say, we’re looking at the back of the set and see what the imaginary audience cannot. Now, as disaster spirals, there are lengthy ensemble sequences of slapstick which are almost balletic in timing and grace. The props rapidly changing hands include an axe, a whisky bottle, a prickly cactus, three bouquets, and, of course, sardines. These fishy little nibbles serve as a recurring motif throughout the story. And when Patrick Osborne, (as actor Garry Lejeune playing a horny estate agent) tumbles down a flight of stairs, he throws himself into it with so much gusto, it’s a wonder he wasn’t hurt. However did they get that stunt past health and safety?

Noises Off might seem an unusual choice for the Playhouse, with its reputation for serious theatre. Instead, we get lots of riotous comedy, with a touch of parody of ‘theatre types’ thrown in, if you know what I mean, luvvie. So, for a night of escapism with nothing more sombre than a squished sardine, this is an excellent choice. And judging from the uncontrollable laughter from the audience, no one will disagree.

Noises Off will be at Nottingham Playhouse from Saturday 9 to Saturday 30 April 2016.

Nottingham Playhouse website
Ian Douglas' website