Theatre Calgary’s ‘Noises Off’ is a chaotic farce

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Theatre Calgary’s production of Noises Off by Michael Frayn, kicks off their season, with a very involved farce about a farce. You’ll need a stiff drink after this one, as it’s a all action all the time in a complicated, choreographed sequence of events that you should be laughing at. There are parts that are really funny. But this play is one note that continues on a little too long.

The play within a play unfolds in Grand Theatre in Weston-super-Mare. The actors are putting in their final dress rehearsal for ‘Nothing On’ and it isn’t going particularly well. The director Lloyd Dallas (Christian Goutsis) keeps interrupting because the action isn’t going as it should. As an audience member, you get the idea of how the play is supposed to go, and Lloyd’s interruptions point out what is still going wrong mere hours before the play is supposed to open. Lloyd is a bit of a player is a involved with both Brooke (Camille Pavlenko), an actress who is by the book and recites her lines without fail and is subject to blindness when she loses her contact lenses, and the Assistant Stage Manager Poppy (Anna Cummer) who is clearly overly devoted to Lloyd. Dotty Otley (Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan) is one of the stars of the show and is dating Garry Lejeune (Tyrell Crews) who is slightly prone to jealousy. Then you have Belinda Blair (Karen Johnson-Diamond) who is the resident gossip, but everyone seems to listen to her and Frederick Fellowes (Graham Percy) who faints and gets nosebleeds at the slightest hint of violence. Throw in Selsdon Mowbray (Duval Lang) a slightly hard of hearing veteran actor with a drinking problem and Tim Allgood (Braden Griffiths) an overworked and underpaid Stage Manager and you have the workings of a overwhelming farce.

Act II of the production flips the stage, so that the audience can see what is going on offstage during a matinee performance of ‘Nothing On.’ It’s chaos as Garry’s jealous temper flares, Poppy sobs about Lloyd, Brooke loses her contacts, Frederick faints and gets nosebleeds, all while they try and put on a play that is focused on sardines and timing. It’s insanity, raunchy, and a testament to Noises Off‘s director Mark Bellamy for being able to keep everything straight. The audience has a bit of trouble keeping up as all the action moves so fast in the second act that occasionally there is confusion as to what is happening and why.
Act III has the stage flipped again for the last performance of ‘Nothing On,’ where nothing goes right.

The cast works so hard, constantly moving and playing for laughs. Everyone is incredibly talented, taking on this complex comedy with grace. Crews is great at coming unhinged and no one can scream and cry like Cummer. Pavlenko’s Brooke is always good for a laugh while Tarhan has really great comedic timing.

Anton De Groot’s set design is quite complex because the set is designed on Theatre Calgary’s rotating stage and has to work from both sides. De Groot’s lighting design adds to the comedy as actors step into their light or out of it by mistake.

Noises Off is funny and full, but it tends to be just one note throughout. The play would have been more successful without Act III as there is only so much laughter to be drawn out of one technique.

Theatre Calgary’s production of Noises Off runs until October 5th. More information is available online.

Photo: Tyrell Crews, Graham Percy. Credit: Trudie Lee

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