There is often a suspicion that there is more interesting drama backstage than onstage in many productions and in Michael Fryan’s classic comedy Noises Off the backstage drama is certainly more watchable than the terrible production of ‘Nothing On’ that the company are desperately trying to tour to the poor unsuspecting theatre going public.
For anyone who’s stepped away from the safety of the auditorium into the manic world of producing a play the problems being experienced here will be all to painfully real – although hopefully none of the audience will have been in a production where things have gone this wrong – violence, whisky, marital affairs and a dangerous cactus all conspiring to derail this already wonky wagon.
Act one is always something of a slow burner – its dress rehearsal (or should that be tech rehearsal) and it’s already after midnight and we’re still only half way through act one. We get (after much distraction) to see how (nearly) the Act should look. Act two switches viewpoints backstage after a long few weeks on the road and all is not well – the cast are at each others throat, the Stage Management team have given up trying to control the chaos and to top it all the Director has arrived on a break from Richard III.
Act Three returns Front of House on the final week of the tour and all hell has broken loose – will the company get to the curtain call or will they kill each other first?
Peter Rowe’s production pitches the action perfectly – a slow intro setting up the laughs for the madness of the following acts – and once the laughter starts it doesn’t stop – doors, sheets and sardines fly in all directions as the production disintegrates in front of our eyes.
Showing that she is more than a West End Musical star, Rosie Ashe gives a tour-de-force as leading lady Dotty Otley, hamming it up to just the right level. This is a show though that relies on all the company giving their all in split second perfection and there is no weak spots here.
You will never be able to look a sardine in the same light again.