Kings Theatre, Glasgow 5 stars Doors and sardines. These two elements are the essence of theatre, according to director Lloyd Dallas in Michael Frayn’s ingenious theatrical in-joke, which takes every actor’s nightmare and magnifies it to epically grotesque proportions. When the play first appeared in 1982, the sort of trouser-dropping farce Frayn so magnificently pastiched was still a bums on seats staple of the commercial touring circuit. More than three decades on, and Robin Housemonger’s play, Nothing On, may be even more anachronistic, but it remains an instantly recognisable stalwart which refuses to lay down and die.
Lindsay Posner’s revival of Frayn’s play was first seen at the Old Vic, and now takes meta-ness to new heights by hitting the touring circuit the play has itself become a staple of. It begins quietly enough, as Dallas’ company of insecure drama queens and ego-maniacs go through their final rehearsals of Housemonger’s play. As inter-personal tensions between grand dame Dottie Otley, leading man Gary Lejeune, old lags Freddie, Belinda and Selsdon, would-be starlet Brooke and others rear their head, real life dramas take increasingly chaotic precedence. This comes to a head in the second act, in which the same scene is seen from back-stage several weeks into the tour. By the final act, set on the tour’s final night, Nothing On has been transformed into an eye-poppingly absurd shambles.
All of which makes for an exhaustingly relentless tour de force led by Neal Pearson as Lloyd and a wonderful Maureen Beattie as Dottie. The sheer slickness, comic timing and physical bravura of the cast leaves one reeling in what must be one of the greatest comic constructions ever staged.
The Herald, May 28th 2013