This year’s senior school production of Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” epitomised farcical comedy, providing its audience with an evening filled with laugh-out-loud, belly-aching laughter while creating a whole new meaning to the word ‘sardines’. Nikki Plowman certainly poured her personality into the direction of this production taking on an immense challenge in staging a play that is so dependent on props, set and its actors in order to successfully (and not to mention safely) deliver the physical demands of this farce. The result was sheer comic brilliance.
In Act One we joined the cast of ‘Nothing On’ at their dress (not technical!) rehearsal with the Oxbridge-educated director Lloyd Dallas, played by Weston Lord, ripping his hair out at how far behind schedule they are. Weston’s depiction of the fluctuating emotions of the director was well managed as he successfully mastered switching from rather swathe and laid back to exploding panic and fury, leaving both his cast and the audience slightly on edge throughout.
The show itself opened with Maddie Lock who performed outstandingly as the eccentric veteran trouper Dotty Otley demonstrating versatility through her multi rolling of her onstage and offstage roles. We were then introduced to Poppy, skilfully played by Jemima Stephenson, who not only had to tackle the role of stage manager but also roller skating on and offstage. Adam Forrester took on the role of Tim, the bumbling handyman, come stage manager, come understudy and captured the essence of comedy through his ever awkward presence. This role was also taken on by Tom Chesterman for 2 nights of the show and again he was applauded for his dynamic and comic characterisation with heaps of energy and a lasting presence.
As the cast continued to enter with “darling”, “love” and “precious” utterances becoming increasingly strained we had the multiple entrances of Garry and Brooke played by Harry Moore and Bee Hardcastle respectively. Harry gave an unstoppably energetic and committed performance throughout, displaying unfaltering focus in his interaction with the rest of the cast and seamless comic timing. Bee played her role with understated comic skill with a doe-eyed expression that was perfect for the part. She frequently grabbed the audience’s attention with her exuberant and over exaggerated facial expressions.
We then had Freddie performed by Jamie Linford whose acting clearly embodied the somewhat ridiculous nature of farce. He left the audience inhaling a breath every time he hit the deck flat on his face at the sight of blood to then jump straight back up again. This character was then supported in its comic value by Selsdon played by Cameron Scheide, an insightful alcoholic which had him staggering across the stage and throwing himself through windows. Again he masterfully played this part which added to the mayhem that ensued and ensured the audience were constantly enthralled and entertained. Adding an air of calm and control in comparison to the otherwise wild series of events Honor Meadows as Belinda provided the voice of reason, frequently flying offstage in search of a drunk Selsdon or attempting to calm the heated brawls between Garry and Freddie. Her focused and resolute portrayal of Belinda was a welcome symbol of control which ensured the piece never edged too far into extreme madness.
The added dimension of the revolving stage served to celebrate the creativity of the production team headed by Mark Jenkins. The show was a frenetic physical and mental workout for the cast who must be commended for taking on each of the 4 nights with equal, if not increasing verve, commitment, determination and energy. It made the show even more enjoyable to see the cast so clearly having just as much fun as the audience!