There’s something magically fun about British bedroom farce for me. It might have something to do with the uninhibited outrageousness of it all or it could simply be that underwear makes me laugh. The Bank Theatre’s current production of Noises Off is one of those plays that outrageously has it all – sardines included.
Noises Off was a bold choice to be the first production shown in the newly renovated theatre. It requires staging for both on stage and behind the scenes and it’s a fairly long piece, coming in at two and a half hours including two intermissions. But the journey is worth it – and our local heroes of British farce deserve accolades for flawlessly pulling it off.
Often referred to as one of the best farces ever written, Noises Off is witty and elegant, striking comedic-gold with unlimited energy and precise timing. Written by English playwright Michael Frayn, Noises Off follows a second-rate British touring company as it prepares and performs a sex farce called Nothing On.
The first act takes place during a late-night dress rehearsal and sets the tone for much of the content and jokes that follow. In the second act, the audience is given a look behind the scenes and the drama that unfolds between the actors a month into the show’s run. By the final act, and the end of the 10-week run, pandemonium breaks out and Nothing On quickly becomes one of the worst plays ever staged.
Noises Off is the type of play that builds itself up as it moves along. The humour is mild at the start and then as it progresses, the mounting chaos, shenanigans and tension culminate in pure humour.
To pull this off, the talented crew had to design a set that switches to backstage for the second act. Ingeniously, they created a rotating stage that disassembles during the intermission and flips around for the backstage scenes. Watching the crew rotate the stage was an entirely different show on its own. On the night we were there, the stage would come close to hitting the lights numerous times, but the crew didn’t let that happen. It’s even better to watch while eating an Aero chocolate bar let me tell you.
Hats, gloves and coats are off to the talented cast involved in this show. Director Renata Solski assembled a great bunch to pull it off. Marnie Gare was delightful as Dotty who plays the character of Mrs. Clackett – she was the anchor that kept the humour flowing and she looks great in her housekeeper costume.
Clinton Hammond pulls off Garry and his character of estate agent Roger with what appears to be little effort. Corey Robertson allows himself to be the butt of many jokes as Frederick, who plays the character of Philip who’s returned home with his wife Flavia, played by an enthusiastic and entertaining Cindy Pastorius. Philip tries hard to keep the visit quiet so he doesn’t arise suspicions from the tax collectors who he’s been evading and there’s a lot of physical acting going on here.
Speaking of butts, Emma Amlin spent the majority of the show in lacy red lingerie. It is her cheekiest role by far (pun intended) – she plays the ditzy inexperienced actress Brooke and in turn, Vicki, who accompanies Garry for a night of fun in that previously mentioned lingerie.
The stage hands and managers Tim (Noah Simpson) and Poppy (Perla Alejandra Layman) were fun to watch as their stress levels and comic behaviour increased. Additionally, John Solski had the job of being the elderly and often drunk actor Selsdon, who plays a very sloppy burglar.
The final member of the cast is Michael Hale who plays the role of Lloyd, the director for Nothing On. As essential as any of the other characters, Lloyd is actually the catalyst in the first act. He emerges from the audience calling the shots and eventually ends up on the stage and involved in the insanity.
It’s a wonderfully funny and entertaining show and will surely go down not only as the opening show in the newly renovated theatre, but as one of the best and most physically challenging farces staged in the last few years.
The renovations at the theatre make this one of the premiere theatres in the region.
Noises Off continues this weekend at The Bank Theatre for four more shows (Nov. 14, 15, & 16 at 7:30pm and November 17 at 3pm. Tickets are $30 each and available online or at the Bank Theatre Box Office. For more information or to purchase tickets call 519-326-8805 or visit http://www.banktheatre.com.