(reviewed at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester on 6 May)
Michael Frayn’s farce about a hapless theatre company struggling to do its best for the actress who has sunk her life savings into this touring production should be fool- and director-proof (even if everything which could go wrong with the technical-cum-dress rehearsal and performances of Nothing On does so). The audience should enjoy every minute as the personal and professional lives of the actors unravels before our gleeful eyes.
Only, for me at any rate, this didn’t actually happen. There’s little that can be done to lessen the disjointed feel of Frayn’s Act Three (which is always something of a let-own after the backstage shenanigans of Act Two anyway) having to be bolted on to Act Two in a one-interval only production. But the sense of frenetic mayhem allied to split-second timing just wasn’t apparent.
Farce is a cruel medium; it exposes the actors just as much as the characters they play. Louise Kempton as Poppy, the much-abused (in more senses than one) assistant stage manager and Sarah Jayne Dunn as Brooke, the eye-candy in Nothing On (who’s not as dim as she makes out to be) are funny, as are Sara Crowe and David Shelley as the nominal stars of the show, and Louis Tamone as Garry, the most energetic of juvenile leads.
Louise Jameson as Dotty, “star” as well as financial backer of the play within the play, seemed curiously under-powered at the performance which I saw. Hywel Simons also didn’t seem entirely at ease as Lloyd, the director with too many irons in his smouldering fire. Peter Ellis plays Selsdon, the old actor with a drink problem and Dan Cohen tries his best to hold set as well as cast together as the stage manager, carpenter and general dogsbody.
Noises Off runs at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester until 16 May.