When it comes to a play within a play, Dramsoc’s latest production takes full advantage of the confusion. Although I set out with the noble aim of relating to you the witty intricacies of the plot of Noises Off, at the time I was too busy wiping away tears of laughter to work out exactly what was going on.
Noises Off is Michael Frayn’s smash hit comedy about a bunch of actors attempting to put on the not-so-smash-hit farce ‘Nothing On’. Dramsoc have joyfully embraced the shabby setting of the Union Concert Hall as well as their own extensive experience with wobbly sets and broken props to create a story that is both utterly ridiculous and suspiciously familiar.
Aided by some impeccable acting talent, director Fran Buckland has crafted a beautiful piece of visual theatre that is one of Dramsoc’s most professional productions for some time. Newcomer Nigel Fullerton keeps the audience in fits of laughter, often without saying a word, while Gilead Amit’s god-like voice is all we need to find ourselves empathising with the long-suffering director. The whole cast display a wonderful comic flair that barely allows the audience to catch their breath.
Watching the dress rehearsal last Tuesday was a thoroughly surreal experience as characters discussed their imminent opening night, real and fake techies wandered around fixing things, and copious amounts of sardines were flung around the stage. I’m pretty sure the sardines were supposed to be there (they may in fact have been integral to the plot) but it was usually impossible to tell whether the strings of hilarious screw-ups were really in the script or not.
The play gets off to a slow start and there is some initially quite confusing mime in the second act but it doesn’t take long for the pace to pick up and the gags to start piling up. Solid performances from the whole cast carry us through as each act grows into a crescendo of farcical events. Tom Veitch for example embodies a consistent and utterly believable helplessness in his character, while Simon Worthington gives the endearing impression of having just accidentally wandered onto the set.
Having watched the dress rehearsal I am not entirely sure where Dramsoc ends and the cast and crew of ‘Nothing On’ begins. Director Fran sat in front of me watching the dress with her head in her hands at times while in front of her the ‘Nothing On’ director sat despairing. I’m informed that set designer John Winters didn’t sleep for days in order to create the ridiculously ambitious set which is essentially what happens in the play. In fact I’m pretty sure Nigel smashed the fourth wall in with his foot at one point while falling down some stairs.
For a taste of what to expect from Noises Off you could try checking out the photos that accompany this review, that is if there are any - at several points I saw the photographer unable to hold his camera steady due to being collapsed against the stage giggling - but for some good laughter therapy you’re probably better off going along and watching it for yourself.