Theatre Royal Bath Productions present
Liza Goddard, Matthew Kelly and Simon Shepherd in
By Michael Frayn
Directed by Lindsay Posner
DIRECT FROM THE WEST END
One of the greatest British comedies ever written returns to The Lowry direct from a sell-out West End run.
Michael Frayn’s celebrated play serves up a riotous double bill, a play within a play. Hurtling along at breakneck speed, Noises Off follows the on and offstage antics of a touring theatre company as they stumble their way through the fictional farce, ‘Nothing On’.
One of the UK’s favourite actresses, Liza Goddard’s extensive stage comedy credits include Life of Riley, Communicating Doors, Season’s Greetings and Relatively Speaking.
Matthew Kelly won the Olivier Award for Of Mice and Men. His West End credits include Waiting For Godot, Comedians and Troilus and Cressida.
Simon Shepherd‘s many credits include Peak Practice on TV and the West End productions of Posh, The Duck House, Rapture, Art and Hay Fever.
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Noises Off ON TOUR
Our review on Noises Off
Noises Off - The Lowry, Salford - Tuesday 17th October 2023 by Karen Ryder
Noises Off is wildly bonkers and is guaranteed to make you laugh all the possible laughs in your repertoire!
“To take the sardines, or to not take the sardines? That is the question!” And it is a varied question that may seem bizarre and pointless right now, but it will make perfect insane sense if you have just witnessed the madcap world of Noises off as I have. If you know, then you know. Opening night of the play ‘Nothing On’ is just hours away, and no one seems to know their entrances / exits / positions / lines / motivation / cues – (tick all that apply). They can’t even agree whether this is the technical rehearsal, the dress rehearsal, or just an opportunity to sit on the comfy sofa that is actually the set and have a cheeky swig of their secret stash of booze! Will the ensemble for ‘Nothing On’ battle through and ever make it to Stockton – On - Tees? Or will their artistic and personal differences leave them searching elsewhere for their moment in the spotlight as often as Brooke has everyone looking for her misplaced contact lenses?
With a star cast heading up this unpredictable and riotous play, it was no surprise to see such a grand attendance. The cast on stage are to the power of nine and this gift of a play by Michael Frayn allows each of them to shine. Liza Goddard as Dotty brilliantly introduces us into the rehearsals for the play ‘Nothing On,’ as she attempts to get her lines right, manage a phone, a tray of sardines, and a newspaper all at the same time. Her immediate and clumsy amalgamation of different sayings instantaneously set the topsy turvy world we are now a part of, and it is gloriously risible. She makes her character feel like someone you could know and therefore you warm to her in an instant. Simon Shepherd appears from the audience as frustrated director Lloyd to pacify his highly strung and stressed out actors. His quick fire switches from wanting to strangle his incapable actors to trying to pacify them sets the tone for madness and mayhem and Shepherd expertly plays around with the comedic effect of this. It is fascinating watching him develop his character from a director who can’t believe he has been stuck with this lot when he could be directing Richard III, to a two timing cad, to a bunny in the headlights when thrust upon the stage himself.
Each cast member beautifully introduces us to their character through their rehearsal process for ‘Nothing On’ and we get to quickly learn their quirks and quibbles. Matthew Kelly’s character Selsdon, for instance, has gone missing. As the cast come together to try and find him and support one of their own, he turns up blissfully unaware in the audience, an inebriated smile on his face and a wobble in his walk. His favour for the bottle is mingled with his selective hearing and the way in which Kelly plays around with pause, facial reactions and mannerisms has the audience belly laughing throughout. Dan Fredenburgh as Garry is the smug but harmless, never quite finishes his sentences……”you know,” self-assured team member, and the skilful observation of his delivery led to everyone at the interval declaring that “they knew a Garry too!” Fredenburgh’s physical comedy was outstanding and quite literally left many of us crying tears of laughter. Whether he was trying to negotiate the set with his shoelaces tied together, keep his sanity as the woman he had feelings for was seemingly at it with every other cast member behind the scenes as he was on and off stage, or having his own personal hell battle with the disappearance and reappearance of sardines, you were laughing!
Simon Coates as Frederick represented the self-deprecating, self-apologising actor who has endless questions for the director. What is the motivation for carrying this box? Why do I leave at this point? But he delivered this through the guise of such a gentle character that it had none of the stereotypical indulgence that is so often paired with this choice. His instantaneous nosebleeds at the mere thought of the word stress, and then his inability to deal with the sight of said blood was again such a rib tickling joy to behold. Lucy Robinson as Belinda played the cast member desperately trying to be peace maker and hold it all together, but with a surprising feisty side when the gloves needed to come off and the nails needed to come out. There is a scene where Belinda is left on stage alone in their play and has to fill in and improvise until it gets back on track. Robinson is so brilliantly ‘tra la la – everything is perfect – nothing to see here’ fantastic that she is able to simply prance across the stage, twirl and pose like a star struck teenager, and we love it.
Lisa Ambalavanar as the ‘paint by numbers actress’ Brooke is genius. Brooke carries on oblivious to all the chaos around her, making sure she delivers her lines in order, incapable of improvising to help her fellow cast members out even if that means pointing to bags that aren’t there when they should be and referencing them as if nothing is wrong. Ambalavanar’s dramatic over the top reactions as Brooke in the play are brilliantly executed and had us all in stitches. Nikhita Lesler plays the hard working, love forlorn Poppy, who we see flip from stressed mode to calm and collected stage manager tannoy voice in a heartbeat. Her emotional outbursts and habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time require excellent timing and Lesler has this by the bucket full (or should that be fire bucket and mop full). Daniel Rainford as Tim the technician and all round runner, plays his subservient, people pleasing role without ever being dismissed himself. He flies around at break neck speed, and delivers some side splitting moments such as when he has to speak to the audience of ‘Nothing On’ to keep us updated on the slight delay, or when he is ready and prepared to under study any role necessary to ensure the show goes on.
Noises Off may have an excellent cast but it also has another hard working team member in the set. Fabulously designed by Simon Higlett, it enables us to watch the play ‘Nothing On’ from both the audience viewpoint but also from backstage. The layout of the many doors, the stairs, the sofa, the bay window, and the landing all align in perfect synchronicity to ironically cause all manner of disarray. This inverted viewing opportunity is a huge element to the play, and brings back the rehearsal we have previously seen but from a whole new perspective with additional backstage antics. These backstage antics become the focus now, but with a play supposedly going on, the challenge is that the actors in ‘Nothing On’ can no longer speak out loud to each other, and so arguments, resentments, jealousies, and misunderstandings have to be communicated through a lot of larger than life gestures and gesticulations. Pandemonium follows with an axe, lots of trousers falling down, a bottle of whiskey, flowers, practical jokes, 3 burglars instead of one, and of course sardines and doors! There is one moment part way through the second half that, without giving too much away, left half of the audience wondering if the play had simply finished and we were to go home. But it hasn’t so stick around. This was the only part of the whole evening that was a bit confusing, and whilst all is revealed and you understand the need for the pause in its entirety, it could possibly have been filled with something such as backstage voice overs from the ‘Nothing On’ cast, or ‘panicked house announcements’ or an immersive experience as cast members found their way into the audience, to keep our focus and not break that connection in the interim.
Noises Off is wildly bonkers as all the best things are! It is guaranteed to make you laugh all the possible laughs in your repertoire, and make you feel so much lighter. There is no deep or hidden meaning in this one. It is all about the fun, the giggles, and in case you hadn’t been paying attention – the sardines and the doors!
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