Teetering hilariously

NO WEAK LINKS: British playwright Michael Frayn's play relies on split- second timing
NO WEAK LINKS: British playwright Michael Frayn’s play relies on split- second timing

Noises Off, by Alexander Road High School. Directed and staged by Greg Everard. May 5 to 10 at the Alex Percy Walker Hall. Starring Rachel Calitz, Lukhanyiso Skolsana, Mikael Renze, Usi Nteyi, Micayla Fillis, Darren Rockman, Matthew Hamilton, Luke Hamilton and Cliff Kleb. Reviewed by Brian Hayward.

WHAT we see as a flawless performance on stage is in fact, as many an actor will attest, many times a work teetering on the brink of disaster.

This peculiar phenomenon – the backstage antics, egos and love trysts – was something that piqued English playwright Michael Frayn’s interest while watching one of his own works from the wings of the stage in the 1970s.

From that, the stage comedy Noises Off, was born, taking its title from sounds coming from offstage.

A play within a play, Noises Off follows the mediocre cast of a lame and ultimately doomed farce, Nothing On. The premise already makes for good comedy, but relies heavily on split-second timing.

Additionally taxing on the cast, as an actor-turned-producer friend pointed out, is the act of playing a character which is mediocre; not great or terrible, simply middle of the road.

Adding to the comedy are the misfit characters which include a ditsy blond, an egotistical director, an insecure actor, a love-sick assistant stage manager and a disappearing guest star who loves his whisky.

So by taking on this play, Alexander Road High School drama head Greg Everard knew it was a weighty project. Whether his cast of plucky pupils knew the extent of the task that awaited them is up for debate, but one thing is for sure: they do justice to Frayn’s carefully scripted comedy.

Split into three acts, Noises Off opens with the dress rehearsal, where the impatient director (Mikael Renze) tears his hair out as his cast stumble over their lines just hours before the curtain is set to lift.

The opening lines are the ones which need to hook the audience, and here rising young star Rachel Calitz (playing a middle-aged actress playing a work-weary housekeeper) shines brightly.

The second act shows a quiet, midweek matinee of Nothing On a month later, with the cast distracted by their various love interests.

The final act takes place 10 weeks into the show’s run as it falls apart at the seams, helped along as the cast tears into one another – either out of love, lust or rage – missing their lines, ad-libbing and literally falling down the stairs, all to hilarious effect.

Without divulging the side-splitting plot of Nothing On, it is suffice to say there were no weak links in the cast of 10 (a number including identical twins Matthew and Luke Hamilton and guest star Cliff Kleb) on opening night.

Some other notable performances included Amy Palmer, playing a young, inexperienced actress from London, getting her brief of “mediocre” down to a tee. Playing a love sick assistant stage manager, Micayla Fillis is also enjoyable.

Adding extra sprinkles to the top of a delicious chocolate cake is local stage veteran Kleb.

Guest starring as a disappearing cast member with a love for the bottle, Kleb helps bind the young and adept Alex cast with a performance which seems casual and effortless, but which is calculated and expertly carried out.

Lovers of amateur theatre should make an effort to catch Noises Off tonight, tomorrow or Saturday at 7.30pm.


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