Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

It'll not be all right on the night


cast of noises off

The cast in conflict rehearsal for Nothing On and making Noises Off

Noises Off

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


THE Nonentities bravely take on the organised yet shambolic chaos that is Noises Off.

Michael Frayn's 1982 farce is a play within a play, and both cast and crew rose to the challenge of taking on board the performance and staging logistics of this seemingly simple but technically complex production.

The play is set over three acts, but is in fact the first act of a touring production viewed from the rehearsals in Act one, to the same scene weeks later from behind the scenes, returning in Act three to an audience’s perspective to witness its complete collapse near to the end of its run.

Director Tori Wakeman suffered her own real calamity in inheriting the directors’ chair only three days before rehearsals but has done a good job of piloting this piece through the storm of intended miscues and theatrical failures.

So it begins with the cast of Nothing On, a new farce, who are burning the midnight oil in rehearsals on the eve of its opening night and things are far from prefect. Joan Wakeman plays Mrs. Clackett the forgetful housekeeper to The Brents who are away `in Spain’ and all seems normal until she forgets her cues and her sardines prompting the director Lloyd Dallas to pop up from the audience to halt the proceedings. From this point it’s clear that things are not going to be normal as the interruptions gather pace.

Enter then Roger and Vicki played by Matt Gibbons and Harriet Poulton. Roger is apparently the agent responsible for letting the property whilst the Brents are abroad and he has convinced the shapely Vicki that it is his house and takes her there for an afternoon of passion.

Add to that that the Brents themselves turn up, Philip and Flavia, portrayed by Robert Graham and Sue Downing. They have snuck back into the country as Spain, for them, is a tax avoidance exercise and not a holiday. 


As the play falters, it receives countless interjections from director Lloyd played by Chris Clarke, frustrated with his actors as the opening scene stumbles forward until the entrance of the burglar. The hapless thief is played by Stephen Downing and his character is clearly the worst for drink adding yet another layer of disorganised yet organised fun. Finally the scene grinds to a full halt and the stage and company manager, played by Jenny Luke and Dan Taylor, are summoned on stage to help sort out the impeding chaos.

As this was the first night of the play it took a while to get things going. The first act is instructional to the audience. It helps them get to know the play so they can clearly understand by act three just how far the script has left the original.

This original play dialogue is also important in act two where the whole set is now reversed to see behind the scenes. However whilst the play continues out of sight on the other side of the set to an imagined audience, much of that dialogue is lost on the small stage of the Rose theatre. The fact the play is underway adds to the tension of the backstage squabbles and its loss meant that we are left with mostly the slapstick of the fracas. Having said that, by the end of the scene, the level of chaos was still coordinated well enough to be bad enough to have everyone laughing out loud.

The third Act returns to the front audience view and by now the play they are playing is a mess of accidents, adlibs and miscues .This was probably the funniest part of the evening as by now it’s hard to spot what is scripted and what is genuinely going wrong. In Frayn’s original version he encouraged actors to add lib through this scene as the kind of mistakes he was looking for are hard to reenact and so permitted the actors to make the scene as genuine as possible.

It’s quite clear that everyone involved has had a great time bringing this well-crafted farce to the stage and the hard working crew also received a deserved round of applause for reversing the entire set in about five minutes in direct view of the audience.

Overall it lacked the precision to maximize the full laughter potential of the piece in exploiting the stereotypic theatrical tantrums and personalities to the full. It’s still a highly entertaining production and it clearly has involved a great deal of work for everyone involved and therefore is guaranteed to gather pace and fall apart more effectively as the performances continue. To 13-06-15

Jeff Grant


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