What’s more fun than a comically flawless story about tragically flawed people? Nothing. A clumsy bombshell; a despotic director; a stuttering actor. It was never going to be easy staging a bedroom farce on tour, with a mediocre cast, but this is complete pandemonium! On stage, it’s a whirl of slamming doors, missed cues, dropped lines and dropped trousers. Backstage, it’s a chaotic maelstrom of love triangles and trampled egos, and there’s no one without an axe to grind … or swing.
Ever since Shakespeare put ink to paper, audiences have been fascinated by the concept of the play-within-a-play – especially if that play goes wandering off-script and chaos ensues, whether of the comic or tragic variety. In the 1970s, playwright Michael Frayn resolved to weave together an on-and-off-stage farce, and the result was Noises Off, a work that reframed on-stage comedy and quite simply, made the world LOL!
His classic meta-farce has been running continuously all over the world since its 1982 premiere. Now, Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director Sam Strong, fresh from the critical triumph of his Queensland Theatre debut Once in Royal David’s City, directs this comic masterpiece in a co-production with Melbourne Theatre Company.
What’s more, Strong has marshalled an ensemble of the country’s top comics, including Hugh Parker, Libby Munro, Ray Chong Nee, Louise Siversen, Nicki Wendt, James Saunders, Steven Tandy, Emily Goddard and Simon Burke to ensure a wickedly funny night.
Noises Off is a frenetic work about a company of comically unfocused actors attempting to put on a play well beyond their abilities as they tour the bosom of middle England – Weston-super-Mare, Ashton-under-Lyne, Stockton-on-Tees. Naturally, the company frays and falls apart, and the bedroom farce, Nothing On, fails utterly – but for the audience, watching things unravel is a treat.
“Noises Off spins comedy gold out of the gap between the grandness of people’s ambitions and the very ordinariness of their execution,” said Strong. “This is something that’s been accurately described as the funniest play ever written. It is a Swiss-watch of comic construction – a perfect machine that all you need to do is power with an ensemble of theatre animals and fabulous comedians.’
“Mid way through rehearsals, I’m in awe of the genius of Frayn’s play and of the cast bringing it to hilarious life. Like all works of greatness, Noises Off has spanned some very funny imitations. Bu Frayn’s play is still the original and the best.”
Michael Frayn is an award-winning English playwright and novelist, who is best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy. His novels, such as Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies, have also been critical and commercial successes, making him one of the handful of writers in the English language to succeed in both drama and prose fiction.
“if there is a finer stage comedy than Michael Frayn’s farce about the staging of a farce, I’ve yet to see it.” – The Times
Director: Sam Strong Featuring: Simon Burke, Ray Chong Nee, Emily Goddard, Libby Munro, Hugh Parker, James Saunders, Louise Siversen, Steven Tandy, Nicki Wendt Associate Director/Dialect Coach: Leith McPherson Assistant Director: Caroline Dunphy Designer: Richard Roberts Lighting Designer: Ben Hughes Composer/Sound Designer: Russell Goldsmith Movement Director: Nigel Poulton Stage Manager: Eloise Grace Deputy Stage Manager: Dan Sinclair Assistant Stage Manager: Margaret Burrows
Playhouse – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Season: 8 June – 25 June 2017
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 8 July – 12 August 2017
Information and Bookings: www.mtc.com.au
Image: Libby Munro, Simon Burke, and Ray Chong Nee feature in Noises Off – courtesy of MTC