Having ventured far away from the Fringe into a tucked away little village hall in a particularly small auditorium, the first thing that you clasp your eyes on is the absolutely remarkable set - one that could have been taken straight out of any professional venue. What follows is a phenomenal demonstration of theatre-making, taking one of Michael Frayn’s most complicated plays and making it look easy.
Michael Frayn’s script is certainly complicated, (...) but the execution of this marvellous play is sublime
Noises Off follows a company of actors preparing for the grand opening of their new play Nothing On, but the increasing tensions within the cast start to threaten the quality of the production and, as is the nature of farce, everything burns down into chaos.
The next two and a half hours consists of multiple entrances and exits, intricate plot points and humorous misunderstandings, all beautifully executed by this cast of very talented actors. Across the board, they give remarkable performances with distinct characterisation, for both their roles as the ‘actors of Noises Off’ and the ‘characters of Nothing On'. Transitions in and out of those roles when the director yells “CUT” are sharp and clearly marked, without having to resort to technical tricks, keeping the production natural and alive despite the larger-than-life personalities. And with the script demanding a lot from its actors, with numerous technical challenges that threaten to destabilise its quality, they all hold their own and master the execution of the play with ease.
What is lacking from this production, particularly in the first act, is pace. Farce requires a high level of momentum and energy to drive the performance forward and achieve the chaotic nature the script demands. Though this increasingly got better as we moved into the second and third acts, a hesitation to jump on cues and temptation to emphasise certain jokes dragged out the first act, when they could have benefited more by making it sharp and slick. In the words of Lloyd Dallas, director of Nothing On, “Bang you’re on, bang you said it, bang you’re off.”
But overall, what the Edinburgh Theatre Arts company have created is a phenomenal piece of work. Michael Frayn’s script is certainly complicated, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but the execution of this marvellous play is sublime. The set looks incredible, the performances are amazing, and this was only opening night. All it needs is to be tightened up, maybe made a little slicker, and this company will have a truly magnificent show. It may be out of the way, but it’s worth the journey.