Well holy shit, it took me a while but I’ve finally seen NOISES OFF. Now granted, we’re just starting the second week of the Ottawa Little Theatre Production, part of their epic 100th season. But I mean, I’ve never seen it, EVER. Not last season’s Kanata Theatre production, or the Gladstone version a few years past. Not even the movie! And from what I’d heard, this farce by Michael Frayn is the farce of farces, the farciest farce that ever did farce. And that’s farcing something.
Set up as the quintessential theatrical nightmare, the show begins as a company is performing a last, late-night dress rehearsal before opening their tepid show NOTHING ON! The very next day. From the opening scene with veteran actor Dotty Otley (Sarah Hearn) trying to remember if she’s supposed to take the sardines or leave the newspaper, frazzled director Lloyd Dallas (Geoff Gruson) begins visibly and audibly fraying at the seams. Enter the rest of his overly opinionated and underly talented troupe…picky Garry (Shaun Toohey), curiously optimistic Belinda (Dianna Renee Yorke), milquetoast Freddie (Josh Sparks), deaf old Sesldon (Barry Caiger), and dim bombshell Brooke (Dana Truelove). It’s all Lloyd, with the help of his Stage Manager Tim (Tim Ginley) and ASM Poppy (Danielle Washam) can do to even make it to the end of the fist scene without the entire rehearsal breaking down into bickering, relationship gossip and utter chaos. And the show hasn’t even opened yet.
Comedy kicks into a dead sprint in act 2, when the set is literally turned around and we get to witness a full-on production of this terrible show from backstage, replete with infighting, backstabbing and liberal drinking. Act 3 sees our crew soldiering on months down the road, when it seems almost none of them give a merry fuck anymore, and yet the show must, and somehow does, go on.
NOISES OFF has a reputation as one of the funniest plays ever written, and it’s hard to argue with that verdict. The OLT, and director Richard Elichuk have assembled one of the more spot-on casts I’ve ever seen on their stage, and in the fairly lengthy runtime there isn’t a weak note in the production. Everyone nails their parts (on a splendid 2-story set from designers Robin Riddihough and Tom Pidgeon), which involves one helluva lot of comic physicality, loopy dialogue and epic mugging. Josh Sparks is a personal highlight as wimpy Freddie, fainting at the sight of blood from his own anxiety–induced nosebleeds. Props to newcomer Dana Truelove for some very smart work as delightfully thick Brooke, and Sarah Hearn is absolutely wonderful as moody Dotty. Typecasting frequent OLT director Geoff Gruson was a particularly canny move, his booming and authoritative voice cutting through the madness onstage quite effectively throughout. Although my fav’rit act was definitely the second one, performed in near-silence as we witness the hidden backstage side of a mess of a production. Absolute gold, and a must-see. A movie would seriously not do this story justice, no matter how well done.
Major love for a killer funny production, excellent cast and crew, and some of the best summer fun to be had indoors this month. Hell, even the show program is laugh out loud funny! You know your theatre schedule is too light this summer, so get on out for some good, good times. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)