If there’s something we could all do with right now, it’s a good laugh, which is why the Cayman Drama Society’s latest production is ‘Noises Off!’ – a riotous comedy by English playwright Michael Frayn.
Premiering on 20 May, and running every weekend through 12 June, the show, called “the funniest play written” by The New York Times critic Frank Rich, takes the audience backstage to witness the calamities that can occur in live theatre.
The story focusses on a group of actors on tour, trying to stage a farce called ‘Nothing On’. Act One is set in The Grand Theatre in Weston-super-Mare where the thespians are struggling to complete their final dress rehearsal.
In Act Two, the audience witnesses the backstage catastrophes at a new venue a month later: Theatre Royal, Ashton-under-Lyne.
Act Three sees their final performance at the Municipal Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees, as the mounting chaos threatens to completely derail the production. Of course, the cast tries to struggle on regardless, in the true spirit of ‘The show must go on’.
The action covers all of those things that a director fears: Lines are forgotten, props are misplaced, animosities are blossoming between off-stage lovers, and errant sardines are creating pandemonium. Can the cast and crew lift themselves from mediocrity to standing ovation?
Frayn obtained his inspiration from watching a play from the wings, deciding that the backstage interaction was actually funnier than what was onstage.
The original show debuted at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London in 1982. It got such rave reviews that it was moved to the West End, and, in 1983, opened on Broadway where it ran for 553 performances. It was nominated for numerous Tony Awards and won a Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble.
Even those who didn’t make it to those live performances may be familiar with the 1992 film adaptation, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and featuring an all-star cast including Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and John Ritter.
For the Cayman Drama Society to take on ‘Noises Off!’, it first had to look at the interesting set logistics. The unique setup of the plot (a play within a play) makes the stage design a challenge, to say the least.
“This set is the largest we have built at the theatre”, said Paul de Freitas, who was in charge of set design and construction. “Not only does it have to be two storeys and swivel on wheels, [it also has to be] strong enough for the actors to run up and down stairs.”
Director Paul Njoka has made the decision to entertain the audience at intermission with the turning of the set, in order to reveal both the front and ‘backstage’.
It isn’t just the mechanics of the set that make this show more complicated than most. The script is also a merry dance for the actors, who are playing characters playing other characters. Got that?
Better to see it in person, but get your tickets early before it sells out.
Rating and accessibility information
‘Noises Off!’, directed by Paul Njoka with assistant director Catherine Marron and producer Anne de Freitas, opens at the Prospect Playhouse on 20 May and closes on 12 June. It is rated PG-16, due to strong language throughout. The running time is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes, and has two short intermissions. The 10 June performance includes an ASL interpreter and lighting and sound effects will be sensory-friendly for those who need a more accessible experience. If you are purchasing tickets and have any mobility challenges, or are a wheelchair user, please email [email protected] so accessible seating can be reserved, as some theatre seats require the use of stairs.
| Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students. Doors open at 6:30pm with showtime at 7:30pm. Book online at www.cds.ky.