Friday, 18 November 2016

Noises Off, Canberra Rep, Theatre 3

Michael Frayn's farce is a multidimensional wonder. There are many plays about plays, including a fair few plays in which the play under question goes horrendously wrong, and which personal disasters intervene on a show in progress. But I can't think of another that builds a whole separate story that takes place backstage in virtual silence while the actors are running a show. The fundamental "keep it going no matter how ludicrous it's got" nature of farce is captured perfectly in a show that, no matter what, still has to go on.

And this production is perfectly cast with a cast timed to within an inch of their lives. Peter Holland adds to his considerable stack of utter bastards with the irritable lothario Lloyd; Lanie Hart bounces between ratty housekeeper and grande-dame-of-the theatre as star-and-producer-of-the-show Dotty; Lewis Meegan is delightfully incoherent and, eventually, wild rage-monster as leading-man Garry; Alex McPherson is dimly determinted and looks rather fantastic in frilly underthings as Brooke; Arran McKenna is charmingly vulnerable and a tad dopey as Freddy; Stephanie Lekkas indulgently enjoys the gossip as the increasingly protective Belinda; Carla Weijers blindly tries to hold things together as stage manager Poppy; Brendan Kelly scatters between exhaustion and frantic movement as Tim; and Andrew Kay's Selsdon floats above it all with only a vague understanding of what everybody else might be up to.

Cate Clelland's direction makes sure the multiple layers are slided through seamlessly. The characters may be all at sea but we're never in doubt where we are, what's going on, and what horrible thing to dread (or enjoy the possibility of) happening next.

Quentin Mitchell's grand set is beautifully realised by the usual Rep crew of handymen (and one handy woman). Lighting by Bernard Duggan and Sound by Neil McRitchie are similarly on point.

This is hysterical fun for anybody who loves theatre in all its gloriously live possibilities. Absolutely recommended.

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