The cast, with director Alex Lanham (centre on settee), on stage.
The cake, created by Sally the Cake Lady to celebrate the 1000th production. Photos: Deanne Scott
Noises Off - Brisbane Art’s Theatre’s 1000th production
By Michael Frayn
Directed by Alex Lanham
Brisbane Arts Theatre
Season July 4-August 15. Bookings: artstheatre.com.au or 07 3369 2344
It was s huge milestone for the company - the 1000th production – and what a triumph it turned out to be. Alex Lanham produced a perfect cast which in turn created perfect characterisations in one of the funniest plays ever written.
They were simply brilliant and with perfect comic timing had the audience howling with laughter from beginning to end. I have seen this play within a play several times before including the professional production with Tom Oliver and Stuart Wagstaff and I can honestly say that the Arts Theatre production was every bit as sharp and funny as that or any other pro version I have seen. I laughed until there were tears in my eyes.
It is not an easy show for an amateur company simply because of the set, which is designed as a two-storey and completely reversible stage. Act one is the dress rehearsal for the farce Nothing On. It is played on a theatre set, while the second is back stage as the play is being performed. But Chancie Jessop’s set cleverly got round the problem with a two level room that worked brilliantly.
Nothing On is a bad farce with a cast of fairly inept actors on a provincial UK tour. It is set in a 16th-century newly modernised home which is being rented out while the owners are in Spain.
There are girls in their underwear, men losing their trousers, and doors continually banging open and shut and the cast is hopelessly unready, and baffled by entrances and exits, missed cues, missed lines, and bothersome props, including several plates of sardines.
In Act Three, we watch a performance near the end of the run, when things have gone from bad to worse. The actors however remain determined at all costs to cover up the mounting series of mishaps, but it is not long before the plot has to be abandoned entirely and the more coherent actors try to salvage the production with some hilarious and hopeless ad-libbing.
While all this is happens there are illicit love affairs, jealousies, a burglary and mistakes happening left right and centre plus a director driven frantic by his hopeless cast. This was Lloyd, magnificently played by Jon Darbro. I loved his character switches as he bullied, cajoled, flattered, and cursed his cast to try to pull a performance from them. I think everyone knows that director.
Then there was assistant stage manager Poppy, harassed by everyone and so beautifully payed by Gabby Carbon; the poor put-upon Stage Manager Tim played nicely harassed by Michael Stent; Victoria Costa is a delightful Dotty while Damien Campagnolo is a Garry Lejeune, the stuttering actor, who goes completely to pieces in the final act. He has grea comic timing as he plays the estate agent in Nothing On and brings the lovely Brook (Vicki) to the house for an illicit assignation, Brooks spends the play running around in her pretty black underwear and is well played by Hayley Fielding. She is suitably vague and doggedly persistent in getting out her Nothing On lines out no matter what the circumstances.
Shaun King plays Selsdon, the elderly drunk burglar in Nothing On and obviously has a ball missing entrances, chasing scotch bottles and generally being undesirable. Finally there are Philip and Flavia Brent, the owners of the house who have sneaked back from Spain to spend a wedding anniversary night alone.
Here we have two more marvellous interpretations from Riley McNamara and Jessica Elise Moore. Riley is a laugh a minute as the actor Freddy, insecure and susceptible to nose-bleeds and the one of wants to his motivation for carrying a box into a room; hilarious stuff.
Jessica again puts in an extremely strong performance as the actor Belinda and truly comes into her own in the final act.
But do be warned. It is a three-act play. There is no mention of this in the program and the second act ends on such an amazing high that many on opening night thought the show had ended.
But when the actors came on stage, it was not for applause, but to re-arrange the set. We discovered that there was indeed a second interval. But the wait for act three was worthwhile for it was just as insane and incredibly funny as the other two.
If its laughter you’re after, do not under any circumstances miss this one.
The Cast and the cake after the performance.
Right; Techincal Director Ruby Tuesday,. Artistic Director John Boyce and Arts Theatre President Alex Llanham.
Photos by Deanne Scott