Laughter is a sure thing

Noises off

The New Alexandra Theatre

*****

LET'S face it, In these financially difficult times  we are all cash strapped and so placing your hard earned money on any form of public entertainments can be the equivalent of randomly buying  a scratch card when you next fill up at the garage.

In either case there is no absolutely no guarantee that you will get any return on your investment. Of course the advantage of a scratch card is that it only takes a few seconds to find out you have not won anything whereas a badly produced play can last for as much as two tedious hours before you decide it was rubbish.

How refreshing then to see something like Michael Frayn's  Noises Off and the current production by The Old Vic whereby you get so much return for your ticket price that you might even consider having paid a little more for the pleasure.

What adds to the value stakes is you will see the play not once but three times, each from another hilariously different perspective and all of that trades on the fact that you know what should be happening after the first time around.

So a touring theatre company is about to face their first night of a provincial tour of a farce called Nothing On.

 In the first act of Noises Off we are still at the technical/dress rehearsal stage in which we get to see the majority of a well-produced farce but one that is constantly interrupted with `either actorly or `luvvie ‘questions.

BACKSTAGE

In act two we see another night of the play, now underway, but from a backstage perspective so the set is completely reversed. There are a few difficult relationship cast issues that have begun and by the third act we return to a `front of house view' but now at the end of the plays run, only to witness the chaos that the production has now become.

It's probably fitting to begin with director Lindsay Posner who has done an exceptional job of organising the company into this high level of precision inadequacy. It's a juggling task of immense proportions and the task of connecting the physical dots of the play this well, must be commended.

Neil Pearson is the company's director Lloyd Dallas and whilst he has perhaps one of the easier roles the performance line is often blurred, as, while he is directing the onstage players in their play, you forget someone has previously been directing him to be the director if you follow.

Dotty Ottley played by Maureen Beattie is the Mrs Overall of the Farce and whilst beginning the rehearsal as a little ` Dotty' herself  her descent into confused`  on stage chaos' culminates with her drawing a welcome round of applause for a song and dance exit that is completely out of her character.

Supported by Chris Larkin, Sasha Waddell, Simon Bubb, Thomasin Rand, Danielle Flett and Geoffrey Freshwater this brilliant cast all do a fantastic job of presenting caricatures of the British Theatre. 

The real highlight of the show as much for his energy as his performance is David Bark –Jones who plays Garry Lejeune. It's hard to count the amount of times he goes up and down the stairs either normally or hopping but must be one of the fittest stage actors currently treading the boards, executing one complete fall from top to bottom with balletic precision.  

The biggest problem with Noises Off is that it's hard to see all of it as you will be laughing so hard at various points that it will take valuable time for you to physically recover.

You may enter the theatre with a world of worry but I guarantee that this production will make you laugh and forget all of that for a time.  It goads you first into amusement and then gets you to smile at the absurd and when your defences are finally down, piles on the physical comedy in the best tradition of Basil Fawlty and Frank Spencer.

It's a great night's entertainment and a sure thing compared to the lottery. If you do go to see it and the person next to you is not laughing at some point, be concerned and check them for a pulse. To 29-06-13.

Jeff Grant

 

And the noise of words at the back . . .  

****

FOR sheer graft and shed loads of enthusiasm, the cast of this touring farce deserve full marks.

Climbing through windows, dashing up stairs - and in the case of David Bark-Jones, somersaulting down stairs - they risk life and limb in Michael Frayn's play within a play which proved such a hit in the West End.

Opening night in Birmingham was met with regular burst of laughter from the audience and some cheering at the end, but at times I found the humour repetitive and at times irritating because the situations were so ridiculous.

The story follows the rehearsal and two performances of a play called Nothing On by a touring company, with errors galore, testing the patience of their director Lloyd Dallas (Neil Pearson).

A clever set, representing the living room of a country home, is able to turn inside out so that we see what goes on backstage as well as the hilarious antics up front.

There are seven doors which members of the cast dash in and out of, and even kick, trousers fall down a few times and shapely Thomasin Rand spends a lot of time rushing around in her undies.

In the end you can only marvel at the skill with which these actors play bungling actors, like it or not. To 29-06-14.

Paul Marston 

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