Theatre in Wales

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Noises Off

Torch Theatre company , Torch Theatre, Milford Haven , October 25, 2006
Noises Off by Torch Theatre company This review first appeared in The Stage

This Torch Theatre production will certainly enhance the reputation of Noises Off, which has been described as the most successful comedy of the last 20 years. For the cast, Michael Frayn’s hilarious “farce within a farce” must also be the most challenging.

Dotty Otley’s outrageous on-stage character, Mrs Clackett, opens the show and when Lloyd Dallas, the Director (Phillip Childs) bellows instructions to her from the auditorium we recognise that this is some sort of stage rehearsal.

Then estate agent Roger Templemain and sexy Vicki turn up for some naughty business, expecting the house to be empty. These are the on-stage characters of Brook Ashton, (Emily Bowker) and Gary Lejeune (Edward Harrison) and I enjoyed how their antics to avoid Mrs Clackett set the pace for what’s to come.

When the house owners, Phillip and Flavia Brent, arrive unexpectedly, we get an hilarious demonstration of everything that could go wrong during a rehearsal - and this really is a dress rehearsal for Nothing On, a farce due to open the very next day. It has an awfulness that can not get worse until gin-soaked classical actor Selsdon Mowbray (David Alcock) climbs through the window in a burglar’s outfit and a Sheikh, who is the double of house owner Phillip Brent, turns up to buy the property.

The ingenuity of Sean Crowley’s set design becomes apparent on the opening night. Now we are party to backstage chaos among the real actors. The timing, inter-play and intrigue between Director Lloyd Dallas and his stage assistants, Poppy (Vivienne Rowdon) and Tim (Gareth Pierce) is perfect and Emily Bowker’s Vicki is both glamorous and bemused.

Now, Dotty Otley (Janet Jeffries) is an ageing sitcom actor and her marvellous entrance sets off a riot of comedy that is magnified by the audiences’ knowledge of what’s to come. Frederick Fellows (Giles Thomas) is stuck with Phillip Brent’s angst on and off the stage while Belinda Blair (Mary Keegan), who plays his wife, finally abandons her elegance amid the wonderful backstage bedlam. But angriest is Gary Lejeune (Edward Harrison), who plays estate agent Roger, and his hilarious acrobatic performance won special applause.

The chaotic final performance in Stockton-on-Tees has to be seen to be believed.

Reviewed by: The Stage

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