Noises Off. By Michael Frayn. Directed by Cate Clelland. Canberra Repertory Society. Theatre 3. Until December 3. canberrarep.org.au. or 62571950.
Canberra Rep has come up with a cracker of a show for Christmas. Michael Frayn's Noises Off is British farce at its best and Rep makes the most of every bit of mayhem and madness in a night at the theatre that will have you laughing until the tears roll down your face.
During a visit to one of his plays in 1970, Frayn watched the backstage shenanigans while the other actors strutted their stuff upon the stage. And so the idea for Noises Off was born. Frayn ingeniously incorporates another farce within Noises Off.
As the curtain rises on Noises Off, the play within the play, Nothing On, is having its final dress rehearsal in Weston-super-Mare before a tour of the provinces. Director Lloyd Dallas, played with increasing neurosis by Peter Holland, is plagued by a bumbling, stumbling company of actors that would give any sane director a peptic ulcer. Lainie Hart scores the early laughs as faded actress, Dotty, who plays the befuddled Mrs Clackett with a taste for sardines in Nothing On. Lewis Meegan gives a lively performance as Garry Lejeune, who takes on the frantic role of Roger Tramplemain, intent on seducing the daffy, sexy internal revenue investigator Vicki, delightfully played by Alex McPherson as Brooke Ashton.
Rep has a fabulous comic talent in Arran McKenna as Frederick Fellowes in the role of hapless tax exile, Philip Brent. Stefanie Lekkas, as Belinda Blair, convincingly plays Flavia Brent in Nothing On with a steadying measure of control amid the madness. Andrew Kay is the dipsy elderly actor, Selsdon, with a weakness for whisky, while Carla Weijers as Poppy the stage manager, finds herself caught up in myriad confusions. Brendan Kelly's stagehand, Tim, desperately tries to maintain a modicum of control to little avail. Control is out the window as doors open and shut, sardines slither and slide, infidelity is rife and Noises Off characters merge with their Nothing On characters in a farcical foray of mishaps, onstage fumbles and backstage machinations. Frayn dishes up every farcical convention imaginable and Clelland has a cast that handles the sheer physical demands with elan and a sense of contagious fun.
Classic farce succeeds in its timing and great direction in the casting – Clelland and her cast observe the elements of farce with hilarious effect and their production is the best you are likely to see on any amateur stage.