Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Feb 17 – Apr 5, 2014
Playwright: Michael Frayn
Director: Jonathan Biggins
Actors: Alan Dukes, Lindsay Farris, Marcus Graham, Ron Haddrick, Danielle King, Genevieve Lemon, Tracy Mann, Josh McConville, Ash Ricardo
Sydney Theatre Company’s new production of the now classic farce, Noises Off, is comedy at its broadest. This comedy of errors is not sophisticated in concept but its execution under the directorship of Jonathan Biggins is highly accomplished and outlandishly dynamic. From men falling off staircases to women sitting on sardines, and girls in gartered lingerie to boys in bell bottoms and mullet hair cuts, Biggins approaches Frayn’s 1982 work with the most basic of motivations. He wants to make us laugh, and he is determined to pull out all the stops to make it happen.
The cast Biggins has assembled shares his vision. They show no qualms in playing for laughs at every available opportunity, which means that not all characters are clearly defined, and some plot lines get lost in all the mayhem, but the entertainment value of their show is guaranteed. Josh McConville as Roger/Garry impresses with his athletic agility and the most exaggerated physical gags in the production. The volume of his performance sets the standard for how extravagant the actors can go on that stage.
Tracy Mann plays Flavia/Belinda with more subtlety, but her use of voice is strongest in the cast. The excessively, and comically, stagey English accent from the era not only assists with a more distinct characterisation, its overt articulation actually provides clarity to the many twists and turns that occur in the busy story. Ash Ricardo as the Vicki/Brooke “bimbo” characters triumphs in spite of the restrictive and narrow scope given. Her energetic interpretation brings a fresh edginess, and the running joke about her contact lens is a big crowd pleaser. Marcus Graham, usually known for dramatically serious roles, is surprisingly effective as Lloyd. Like the rest of the cast, his enjoyment of the show is genuine, and infectious.
Laughter is the best medicine. Theatre goers can often be an uptight bunch. Jonathan Biggins’ Noises Off forces us to open up and it speaks to a different part of our minds. Like the brilliant extended section in Act 2 where virtually no words are spoken, but the biggest laughs are heard, our senses are kept busy. We work overtime to keep up, not with lines and ideas, but by observing all the funny unfold and responding with the thoroughly visceral, and biological, guttural guffaws from deep within… that space which is too often hidden away from the light of day.