Any play within the farce genre is hard to stage with finesse, but the play-within-a play nature of Noises Off brings with it its own special set of challenges. The three act work traces the rehearsal period and performances of a fictitious play called ‘Nothing On’. Act One is a rehearsal where nothing goes right, Act Two is a performance of ‘Nothing On’ seen from behind the scenes where frictions in relationships are portrayed (for the most part) silently while we hear abridged scenes of ‘Nothing On’ continue onstage, and the final act sees a performance unravelling amidst a lot of ad lib done by the ‘actors’ presenting ‘Nothing On’.
Brisbane Arts Theatre has had plans to stage this hilarious play for over eighteen months. They are now poised to open on Saturday July 3rd, and production director Alex Lanham couldn’t be more delighted. He has “been living with the script” since November 2013, and his intimate knowledge of the piece has proved a most valuable commodity. “The difficulty for the actors is: act one – they have the play with the (rehearsal) interjections and discussion with the director, so they have to learn those lines; then they’ve got to learn the lines that are dropped out of act two; and then they’ve got to learn the different version for act three which still uses most of their lines, but not all of them.
“As far as directing is concerned, you’re doing a farce within a farce. The second act…it is difficult because the timing has got to be exact”, said Lanham. “The writing is brilliant and the way it’s put together is stunningly good”. Each time he works with his cast, Lanham is looking to get more and more from them so that the action on stage matches the quality of the book. The Brisbane Arts Theatre cast have two rehearsals to go, and the on stage business has been fine tuned in such a way that the audience can enjoy every nuance of Michael Frayn’s brilliant play.
Taking the central role of the ‘Nothing On’ director Lloyd Dallas is Jon Darbro. Having first seen the play when he was in high school, he recalls the Noises Off as “being so ridiculously funny that when I saw it was coming up, I definitely wanted to audition”. Such is his love of the piece, he would have been happy in any role, and feels fortunate to have been cast in the role of Lloyd. “(He) is manic, and it’s the hardest character I’ve ever had to play in terms of, just, getting it right”, said Darbro. Of Michael Caine’s performance in the film, Darbro reflected that Caine’s Lloyd began a little more laid back and understated, but Lanham has Darbro starting at a level that is considerably heightened by comparison. This directorial choice allows Darbro to thoroughly enjoy Lloyd’s journey and climax in act one.
If you wish to know exactly what shape Lloyd’s journey takes, you’ll simply have to head along to the show. Noises Off opens on Saturday July 4th, and continues through until Saturday August 15th. For tickets and more information please visit www.artstheatre.com.au, call 07 3369 2344 or email [email protected]