June 20, 2021

“Noises Off” brings “Noises of Laughter”

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By Colin Wilson

The Cayman Drama Society ’s latest production is the famous Michael Frayn comedy/farce “Noises Off”.

I first saw it performed here in 1985 at the Workshop Theatre and I was also present at all the rehearsals as I wrote a series of articles for the “Caymanian Compass” giving their readers an inside look of what goes on at the rehearsals to bring a play to the stage.

I also saw the movie starring Michael Caine, the only British actor, with an otherwise all American cast that included Carol Burnett, Christopher Reeve and John Ritter. Instead of an British Touring company (the stage play) it was transferred to a second-rate Broadway – bound group.

I actually enjoyed our Amateur production much better than the movie.

For those of you who don’t know what “Noises Off” is about I freely describe it as written in Wikipedia:

“Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of a play within a play, a sex farce called Nothing On. The three acts of Noises Off are each named “Act One” on the contents page of the script, though they are labelled normally in the body of the script; and the programme for Noises Off will include, provided by the author, a comprehensive programme for the Weston-super-Mare run of Nothing On, including spoof advertisements (for sardines) and acknowledgments to the providers of mysterious props that do not actually appear (e.g. stethoscope, hospital trolley, and straitjacket). Nothing is seen of the rest of Nothing On.

“Nothing On is the type of play in which young girls run about in their underwear, old men drop their trousers, and many doors continually bang open and shut. It is set in “a delightful 16th-century posset mill”,modernised by the current owners and available to let while they are abroad; the fictional playwright is appropriately named Robin Housemonger.

“Act One is set at the technical rehearsal at the (fictional) Grand Theatre in Weston-super-Mare; It is midnight, the night before the first performance and the cast are hopelessly unready. Baffled by entrances and exits, missed cues, missed lines, and bothersome props, including several plates of sardines, they drive Lloyd, their director, into a seething rage and back several times during the run.

“Act Two shows a Wednesday matinée performance one month later, at the (fictional) Theatre Royal in Ashton-under-Lyne. In this act, the play is seen from backstage, providing a view that emphasises the deteriorating relationships between the cast. Romantic rivalries, lovers’ tiffs and personal quarrels lead to offstage shenanigans, onstage bedlam and the occasional attack with a fire axe.

“In Act Three, we see a performance near the end of the ten-week run, at the (fictional) Municipal Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees. Relationships between the cast have soured considerably, the set is breaking down and props are winding up in the wrong hands, on the floor, and in the way. The actors remain determined at all costs to cover up the mounting chaos, but it is not long before the plot has to be abandoned entirely and the more coherent characters are obliged to take a lead in ad-libbing somehow towards some sort of end.”

So how does this latest production rate?

FANTASTIC!!

Both my wife, Joan, who was sitting beside me, and myself was regularly laughing out aloud. Sometimes very loud as some of the cast commented to me when I interviewed them after the performance.

There are some old faces in the cast, Gabrielle Wheaton, Michael Bishop, Liam Oko, Zoe Wall and my good friend Michael McLaughlin, plus Oliver Bishop. And two out of the three of the new faces, Dave Sherwin and Virginia Doyle are seasoned professional actors. It showed!! Last, but not least, of the trio, Angela Pretorius, attended the CDS’ Adult Acting Lessons under the wonderful Kirsty Sullivan after participating in many school stage productions.

As you can tell, the cast were all superb at their roles.

I marveled at how all the actors accomplished the second act. I had a long talk with Director Paul Njoka, whose idea it was to stage “Noises Off”, and he told me this act was the very hardest to stage. Not only for himself to direct but the actors to perform. Everything you have just seen in the first act is performed again but you are now seeing it back stage. Plus some of the actors are not getting on too well – see Wikipedia extract above. 

When you learn lines, it is the person who delivers the line in front that triggers your mind to give the right response. In this act a lot of the lines are just heard but not seen and your response this time is often not the same as it was in Act 1, plus you are trying to hit someone over the head with an axe! Also, the actual pace of your performance has changed from ordinary to frantic.

The result for us, the audience, is non-stop laughter, if the actors get it right.

I was at the Dress Rehearsal, and they got it right. I laughed bucket loads, as did my other media colleagues and friends.

I advise all of you who, I hope, have read this and are intrigued enough to want to see it, book now.  The word will soon be out that “Noises Off” is a MUST SEE!!

 And you can join the “NOISES OF LAUGHTER”, too.

NOISES OFF director, Paul Njoka, has assembled a worthy cast and crew to bring NOISES OFF to the stage for its opening on Thursday May 20th, 2021 with Catherine Marron in the Assistant Director’s chair. Producer for CDS is Fay Anne de Freitas. The complicated set, which has to revolve at both intervals to show the rear of the two-storey structure, was built by Paul de Freitas, Peter Pasold, Bill Mervyn, Frank McGill and Liam Oko. 

Joan exclaimed, “What a fantastic and beautiful set!” She even marveled when she saw it from the back.

Playing at Prospect Playhouse, Red Bay, May 2021 – 7:30pm Thu/Fri/Sat 20-22, 27-29, and June 2021 – 7:30pm Thu/Fri/Sat 3-5, 10-12.

PG16 because of some ‘strong’ language.

CDS: *We are aiming to put on an accessible performance of this on June 10th – if this would be your preference, tickets will be on sale once this is confirmed for that date.*

Adults for CI$25.00

Students for CI$15.00

CALL OR E-MAIL

+1 (345) 938-1998

[email protected]

IMAGES: Georgina Wilcox

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