Left – Nicki Wendt, Louise Siversen. Cover – Simon Burke, Steven Tandy, James Saunders. Photos – Stephen Henry
Anyone heading along to see the MTC/QTC co-production of Noises Off and expecting anything else other than just a fun, lighter night out at the theatre might be at a loss with this one. There's a reason it's such a well loved play and, when executed well, it's a downright hoot. It's great entertainment. Full stop.
Commencing during the final tech rehearsal, no – dress rehearsal? Wait – it's the tech. Yes. Is it? Noises Off gleefully drags audiences through the action and drama (off and onstage) of a quintessential British farce theatre production, and it's ensuing National tour. Starring Grande Dame of film and TV, Dotty Otley (played superbly by Louise Siverson), Act One sees the play within the play in its last excruciating hours before opening night. By Act Two we're backstage with them and they're firmly embedded in the tour. Indignant hook ups and break ups, bloody noses and making sure Selsdon stays sober to inevitably miss his entrance are the orders of the day. Come Act Three and the audience find themselves as the "audience" again, watching the play within the play and the glorious monstrosity it has become.
The true wonder of Noises Off is watching the cast navigate the action. They really need to be a well oiled machine because it's technically dense; actors playing dual roles "onstage" and "offstage" in a revolving world, highly choreographed action, and they have to move at a cracking pace over an expansive large set. And have good timing. And be funny. And they were. Director Sam Strong has pulled together a strong ensemble for the production. Nicki Wendt in particular was just plain hilarious. She earned the applause, applause, applause. They all just look like they're enjoying themselves, and what audience isn't going to react well to that? In some scenes there's so much going on on different parts of the stage it's quite impossible not to just give over and try and enjoy as much as possible.
If there were minor quibbles with the show they would probably fall into the realm of not being able to properly hear Lloyd (Simon Burke) at the very beginning. His microphone had a somewhat Charlie Brown mumbled filter over it and the text is so great, seems a shame to lose it. There were also moments during the production where the tempo lagged and it made for a slight inconsistency in the proceedings. That being said – it's never not an engaging production and when it's cantering along, it's a delight.
It's pure entertainment, and it's a rare occasion when someone's not in the market for that on a night out at the theatre.
Melbourne Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre present
by Michael Frayn
Director Sam Strong
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse
Dates: 8 July – 12 August 2017