Noises off - Royal Court, Liverpool
Until October 4
Having got the idea in 1977 from watching a performance behind the scenes and finding the off stage antics funnier than the onstage, Michael Frayn penned ‘Noises Off’, rewriting it on numerous occasions during the course of the next few years.
As farces go this has everything; dropped trousers, umpteen doors, slapstick, props with minds of their own, stereotyped characters and a clever plot. The difference is that each actor is playing two parts, the character in the play plus the actor playing the character in the play.
In the first act, the action takes place onstage at the last rehearsal of a farce called enticingly, ‘Nothing On’. But nothing is going to plan.
Entrances, exits, props and actors lines all fail to impress the director of the play, Lloyd Dallas, played by Royal Court regular Jonathan Markward.
In the second act we see the action from backstage. There is as much mime as words as the actors frantically try to keep the play moving from behind the scenes.
Dotty, played by Kim Hartman of ‘Allo ‘Allo, won’t answer her dressing room door. Poppy (Jennifer Bea) and Brooke (Jessica Dyas) vie for the attention of two-timing Lloyd while old luvvie, Selsdon Mowbray (Phil Hearne), is kept sober by other actors hiding every bit of alcohol in the place. To add to the mayhem, Garry (Stephen Fletcher) wants to decapitate Frederick (Chris Jordan).
The calming influence in all this in Belinda (Tupele Dorgu of Coronation Street fame) who flaps like a mother hen trying to hold it all together.
The final act brings the audience back to the main stage where the actors are on their final performance of the tour and all the simmering emotions come to a head in a whirlwind of fast-paced slapstick.
Director Bob Eaton performs miracles and the audience reaction is testament to his success.