Ever since Shakespeare put ink to paper, audiences have been fascinated by the concept of the play-within-a-play – especially if that play goes wandering offscript and chaos ensues, whether of the comic or tragic variety.
In the 1970s, playwright Michael Frayn set about crafting an on-and-off-stage farce, and the result was Noises Off, a work that reframed onstage comedy and has been running continuously all over the world since its 1982 premiere, described by one critic as “one of the all-time great farces”.
Now, Queensland Theatre Artistic Director Sam Strong is directing a new production of the play and the company has gathered an ensemble of Australian comic talent including Hugh Parker, Libby Munro, Ray Chong Nee, Louise Siversen, Nicki Wendt, James Saunders, Steven Tandy, Emily Goddard and Simon Burke.
Noises Off is a frenetic play about a company of mediocre actors who attempting to put on a play well beyond their abilities – a clumsy brunette bombshell; an addled actress as the dotty housekeeper; an alcoholic septuagenarian in the role of a burglar – as they tour middle England.
Unfortunately for them, the company frays and falls apart, and the bedroom farce, title “Nothing On”, spectacularly and hilariously fails.
“Noises Off spins comedy gold out of the gap between the grandness of peoples’ ambitions and the very ordinariness of their execution,” Strong said.
“This is something that’s been accurately described as the funniest play ever written. It is a Swiss-watch of comic construction – a perfect machine that all you need to do is power with an ensemble of theatre animals and fabulous comedians.
“Mid way through rehearsals, I’m in awe of the genius of Frayn’s play and of the cast bringing it to hilarious life.
“Like all works of greatness, Noises Off has spanned some very funny imitations. Bu Frayn’s play is still the original and the best.”
Noises Off is playing at the Playhouse, QPAC from June 3 to 25. For tickets, visit the Queensland Theatre website.