MARCH 2024 | Volume 237


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Noises Off
by Michael Frayn
Metro Theatre, 1370 SW Marine Dr.
Mar. 16-April 6
$36/$33 or 604-266-7191

Noises Off is one of the funniest plays I know and one of the toughest to get right. Michael Frayn’s farce is set in a theatre on the stage of a sex farce called Nothing On. Its set is the two-story interior of a home with six doors.

In Frayn’s first act we watch the cast doing a final tech/dress rehearsal of some scenes from the play; in the second act we’re backstage during a matinee performance, hearing the same scenes played “onstage” (behind the set we’re watching), while the actors silently go about pursuing their private dramas and frantically trying to make their entrances and exits with the right props, costumes and timing; in the final act we’re watching the same scenes again onstage during a performance as things fall radically apart.

As clever in its complications as Frayn’s play is, its comedy—like all farces—is basically a function of timing. One character has to enter just as another is exiting. Multiply that by six (the number of characters in Nothing On) or nine (all the characters in Noises Off), add props (a plate of sardines looms large here) and costumes, which in a sex farce frequently come off, doors that get stuck and doorknobs that break, plus the characters’ multiplying confusions and diversions, then speed everything up. It’s a theatrical miracle when the carefully choreographed chaos all works in sync. We’re laughing almost too hard to shake our heads in awe.

The Metro Theatre presentation is a production of Deep Cove’s First Impressions Theatre, where the actors have already had several weeks running the play—and it shows. Their timing on Metro’s opening night seemed pretty perfect to me, and director Claude A. Giroux has added some complex and very funny details, especially in act two’s backstage bedlam, that require not just perfect timing but perfect placement of props (an axe, a dress, a bouquet of flowers, a bottle, a telephone and more). It was impressive comic work all around.

The ensemble in farce has to operate like a well-oiled machine, so it’s a little unfair to single anyone out. But I was especially impressed by Matthew Ip Shaw, who plays the actor Garry, with his half-finished sentences, and the character Roger, a realtor trying to have sex in what he thinks is the empty house with his horny client, played mostly in her underwear by the slightly dense actress Brooke (Veronica Bonderud). The owners of the house, played by insecure Frederick (Jonathon Connelly) and good-natured Belinda (Leigh Richards Stewart), are also very funny. Dotty (Tiffany Bishop), who plays the Cockney housemaid Mrs. Clackett, has a romance going on with Garry, whose jealousy of Frederick multiplies the madness of act two.

We also have hard-of-hearing alcoholic Selson (Peter Robbins), whose late-entering burglar adds to the chaos in the house. And on the edges of the action are Nothing On’s director Lloyd (Ryan Crocker), who has enough reason to tear his hair out without the further complications of his affairs with both Brooke and teary stage manager Poppy (Rebecca MacDonald), and overwhelmed crew member Tim (Elijah Bamberry), who frantically tries to do Lloyd’s bidding.

In addition to the very good cast, kudos to set designer Nicholas Boughen, whose set has to be rebuilt twice during the evening in this theatre with no revolve. Costumers Iryna Steller and Tiffany Bishop have done a great job designing clothes that can go on and come off fast. Michael Smith’s lighting is crucial for signaling in which reality we’re in, onstage or off. Fight coordinator Adara Broyles has choreographed some terrific almost-battles.And three thumbs up to stage manager Janice Howell, who has to coordinate all the chaos every night.

Check out the program for the four dozen or so other people who have made this show possible. Good theatre really does take a village.


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Vancouver's arts and culture website providing theatre news, previews and reviews