Noises Off … Slamming doors! Sardines!

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Photo: Shirley Nadeau

The cast of Noises Off – Ladd Johnson, Doug Werden, Sarah Côté-Dionne, Michael Bourguignon, Sharon MacLeod, Rachel Fletcher, Hoffman Wolff, Alexandra Hartley and Julian Dawson – take a much-deserved bow at the end of the zany production.

 

The Quebec Art Company has outdone itself again! Last weekend’s production of Michael Frayn’s frantic Noises Off in the auditorium of CEGEP Champlain–St. Lawrence was as hilarious as it was breath-taking to watch.

This is a play within a play, and it required a set that showed both “onstage” and “offstage.” The talented cast of nine actors performed well-choreographed, frenzied action on the huge revolving set that itself was a star of the show. Members of the cast entered and exited with impeccable timing via a total of eight doors, a window, and staircases on both the front and back of the two-storey structure. The action was so frenzied that, as one of the cast members said, there was no room for ad-libbing or improvising.

Playwright Michael Frayn said he got the inspiration for Noises Off during the performance of one of his plays in London. “One night I was watching from the wings, seeing the actors dashing between the different doors backstage. It was funnier from behind than in front, and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind.”

This three-act play depicts a mediocre theatre company attempting to stage a play called Nothing On. Through it all, tensions fray, passions flare, lines and trousers are dropped and plates of sardines appear and disappear but are never eaten.

From the start, it was a challenge (but such fun!) to keep all the players straight. For example, Sharon MacLeod plays the role of Dotty Otley (a middle-aged television star who is not only the top-billed star of Nothing On but also one of the play’s principal investors) who is playing the role of the housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett. MacLeod is fearless, taking on a soi-disant Cockney accent, wrangling a telephone, and keeping track (not) of various plates of sardines. She sports her housekeeper’s garb with an aplomb that recalls the great comedian Carol Burnett.

Julian Dawson, as Nothing On’s director Lloyd Dallas, is a temperamental, exacting and sarcastic seducer of young women. To add to the confusion, he also stands in for another character near the end of Nothing On.

Michael Bourguignon, as Garry Lejeune, the lead in Nothing On, has wonderful comic timing and the courage to take a deliberate tumble down the stairs at one point. He is a delight to watch as he smoothly spirits his girlfriend in and out of bedrooms, closets and W.C.s, or in a jealous rage chases actors around with a fire axe when the play (within the play) inevitably begins to fall apart.

Director Cheryl Rimmer, the actors and the entire production crew did a fantastic job. There were too many names on the program to mention them all here, but from set design and construction to costumes, make-up and hair to “master sardine maker,” they all brought this endearing British farce to life for appreciative audiences each night.

I laughed from beginning to end. Noises Off, Nothing On, everything funny. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next! Oh, yes, that will be Fiddler on the Roof at the end of November!

The Quebec Art Company, founded in 1981, is the longest-running English community theatre company in Quebec City. To find out more, or to be a part of an upcoming show, visit quebecartcompany.com.

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Sharon MacLeod (as Dotty Otley playing Mrs. Clackett) and Michael Bourguignon (as Garry Lejeune playing Roger Tramplemain) have a melt-down together as she discovers the telephone receiver is missing and he notices that his sardines have again mysteriously disappeared.

Photo by Shirley Nadeau