Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Noises Off

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


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