MICHAEL Frayn’s farce, Noises Off, is the perfect example of just how hard it is to bring off a show which keeps the audience in fits of laughter by a constant barrage of mistaken identity, doors opening and closing, trousers dropping and bizarre plotting.
It is the story of Otstar Productions’ production of Robin Housemonger’s play Nothing On as it tours the provinces. Directed by Lloyd Dallas, whose intellectual gifts dramatically outweigh his theatrical talent, it’s a farce of the creakiest and corniest colour, performed by a third rate company on a shoestring, and that shoestring financed by the star, Dotty Otley.
In the twilight of her career, our Dotty (brilliantly captured by Karen Trevis) basks in the spotlight of fame and the excitement of romantic passion, and the object of her attention is her much younger leading man, Garry Lejeune – played at Street by Paul Townsend, whose comic timing could teach professionals a thing or two.
Most of the action in Nothing On revolves around sardines, though it’s anyone’s guess why. Set in the country home of the tax-evading Brents, there’s a house agent with a dolly bird, the moonlighting owners, a burglar, a flexible number of be-sheeted sheikhs and of course the devoted Mrs Clackett (Dotty).
As the tour proceeds, tempers fray, romances fade, jealousies fester and the audience suffers.
What’s great about Edgar Phillips’s production for Street Theatre is that no-one in the real audience suffers a bit, other than from the pain of too much laughter. My favourite bit was when the audience at the Strode started shouting advice and prompts.
Edgar took over the role of the director of the play, Lloyd, at short notice when the original actor had an unexpected job change well into the rehearsal period.
Eliane Morgan is quite the funniest Brooke I have seen, skewering the vapid selfishness of this former TV commercial model who has learned her lines but not noticed anyone else in the company.
This Noises Off is huge fun, a tribute to the skills not only of the cast but the brilliant set designers – Bob Price, Mike Kempton and Phil Elliss – and their stage crew. It’s quite something to create a revolve for a smallish stage, and one that allows such vigorous action both from the “front” and backstage in this riotous comedy.
It’s on until Saturday. Don’t miss it.