NOISES OFF!! April 1 – 16, 2011
In his plot for Noises Off, Frayn plays on the concept of a play within a play, in this case a dreadful sex comedy titled Nothing On—the type of play in which young girls run about in their underwear, old men drop their trousers, and many doors continually open and shut. Nothing On is set in “a delightful 16th-century posset mill” that has been converted to a modern dwelling for which renters are solicited; the fictional playwright is appropriately named Robin Housemonger. Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of Nothing On.
Act One is set at the dress rehearsal, the night before opening at the Grand Theatre in Weston-super-Mare, with the cast still fumbling with entrances and exits, missed cues, misspoken lines, and bothersome props, most notably several plates of sardines.
Act Two portrays a Wednesday matinee performance one month later, at the Theatre Royal in Ashton-under-Lyne. In this act, the play is seen from backstage, providing a view that reveals the deteriorating personal relationships among the cast that have led to offstage shenanigans and onstage bedlam. Also, there appears to be no true resolution. The play simply falls into turmoil and disorder before the curtain is pulled.
In Act Three, we see a performance near the end of the ten-week run, at the (still fictional) Municipal Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees, when personal friction has continued to increase and everyone is bored and anxious to be done with the play. The actors attempt to cover up a series of mishaps but only compound the problems and draw attention to the bungling performance.
Much of the comedy emerges from the subtle variations in each version as off-stage chaos affects on-stage performance, with a great deal of slapstick. The contrast between players’ on-stage and off-stage personalities is also a source of comic dissonance.
Cast of Characters
- Lloyd Dallas (Rob Ward): The director of the play, Nothing On. Temperamental. One third of a Lloyd–Poppy–Brooke love triangle.
- Dotty Otley (Maggie Meek): A late-middle-aged actress. Forgetful. Dating Garry, though she attempts to make him jealous by meeting with Fred.
- Garry Lejeune (Zach Salcich): A stuttering actor, easily fired up, repeatedly tries to attack Fred after believing that Dotty was cheating on him with Fred. Speech affectations disappear onstage but are ever-present offstage. Always is stuttering and completing sentences with, “you know…” Dating Dotty.
- Frederick Fellows (Jerry Mertz): An actor with a serious fear of violence and blood. Gets nosebleeds easily. Often questions the meaning of his lines and moves. Blames himself often for things going wrong.
- Belinda Blair (Suzanne Edwards): Cheerful and sensible, a reliable actress. She may have feelings for Fred.
- Poppy Norton-Taylor (Darcey Hill): Assistant Stage Manager. Emotional and over-sensitive, and envious of Brooke, whom she understudies. Carrying Lloyd’s child. One-third of a Lloyd-Poppy-Brooke love triangle.
- Selsdon Mowbray (Bob Strauss): An elderly alcoholic man who hides his bottles onstage. If he is not in sight while rehearsing, the stage crew must find him before he passes out.
- Timothy Allgood (Dowell Mudry): An over-worked Stage Manager. Understudies Selsdon and Freddy.
- Brooke Ashton (Brandi Neely): A young inexperienced actress from London. It is suggested she is a porn star. Pays no attention to other performers, neither in performance nor backstage. She rarely takes stage direction, and continues performing regardless of any other action onstage. Is always losing her contact lenses. One-third of a Lloyd–Poppy–Brooke love triangle.
Director – Jim Boman
Assistant Director – Carol Maryan
Stage Manager – Carole Weatherrred