Noises Off | Sydney Theatre CompanyLeft – Ash Ricardo, Josh McConville, Marcus Graham, Alan Dukes. Cover – Ash Ricardo, Marcus Graham, Alan Dukes. Photos – Brett Boardman

Farce is a much underrated theatrical genre. It is often seen as lightweight because of the amount of cheap and obvious sexual innuendos. Truth is it requires meticulously plotted jokes pulled off with perfect comic timing by the actors. A good farce is a rare beast indeed.

Noises Off presents the absolute best of the genre. It is written by playwright, screen writer and novelist Michael Frayn. Frayn wrote Noises Off after watching a production of his play, The Two of Us from backstage. He thought it actually looked funnier that way so he resolved to write a “farce from behind” – Noises Off premiered in London in 1982.

This play is a farce within a farce while an even bigger farce involving the romantic lives of the cast and crew takes place back stage. Otastar productions, begins it epic tour of a production called “Nothing On” across England. They come decked out in seventies period costume complete with mullets and flares. The same act is presented three times: at dress rehearsal, backstage, and finally when both cast and show are on its last legs.

This multi layered farce works because it’s laugh out loud funny on every level. “Nothing On” is a jolly old door farce about two eloping couples, a stray plate of sardines and a disgruntled burglar.

The second retelling backstage is the highlight of the night. Dotty (Genevieve Lemon), and Gary (Josh Mcconville), have broken up and are locked in their dressing rooms until seconds before curtain call. A frantic dumb show follows involving stray flowers, whisky bottles and axes.

Director Johnathan Biggins, best known to STC regulars as a member of the annual, Wharf Revue team, does a superb job with the script. He realises that the comedy not only comes from the slapstick gags but from the speed at which the actors move. The scene is played at a pace that is as exhilarating as any footy match. The actors take their bows dancing, maintaining a frantic sense of fun and energy till the end. All performance are nailed but worthy of special mention is Ron Haddrick as Selsdon, the elderly actor who has turned selective hearing into an art form, and Marcus Graham as Lloyd the director, who is quick witted, increasingly short tempered but able to maintain a Mick Jagger swagger throughout.

Noises Off sends up the ritual of acting and rehearsals. Its observations are spot on though taken to extremes. Anyone who’s been to at last one technical rehearsal knows how pedantic actors are about the position of their props. When telephone receivers are placed on lamp shades during the third retelling, hysterical carnage ensues.

I cannot recommend this lively and hilarious production highly enough.

Sydney Theatre Company presents
by Michael Frayn

Director Jonathan Biggins

Venue: Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Dates: 17 February – 5 April 2014
Tickets: $58 – $109 (fees apply)
Bookings: 02 9250 1777 |

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