Detailed Synopsis (spoiler alert)
of a comic play, Nothing On, rehearses
at a theatre in Weston-super-Mare, England, the night before the show
is set to premiere. Lloyd Dallas directs Dotty Otley (playing the role of Mrs.
Clackett, the housekeeper at an English estate); Gary Lejeune (Roger, an estate
agent); Brooke Ashton (Vicki, a tax collector whom Roger is attempting to
seduce); Frederick Fellowes (Philip Brent, the owner of the house, who claims
to reside in Spain to avoid tax responsibilities); Belinda Blair (Flavia Brent,
Philip’s wife); and elderly character actor Selsdon Mowbray (a burglar trying
to rob the Brents’ house). Stage Manager Tim Allgood and Assistant Stage
Manager Poppy Norton-Taylor (also the understudy for the female roles) are
on-hand, as well. With opening night looming, the cast does not seem well
prepared, repeatedly forgetting their lines and cues as they work through Nothing On’s first act. The
relationships between some cast and crew members appear rather tense and
awkward. Lloyd scrambles to wrangle the cast, as things do not seem to be
coming together and Nothing On is set
to premiere in just a matter of hours.
month later, at a matinee performance of Nothing
On in Ashton-under-Lyne, the view of the action is now from behind the set,
where Tim and Poppy are stationed. The problems and tensions among cast and crew
members—already suggested during their earlier rehearsal—have worsened: Lloyd
has been romantically involved with both Brooke and Poppy, and the latter is pregnant
with his child. Garry and Dotty have been dating, but their relationship is now
on the skids. Selsdon has a serious drinking problem, and his castmates must constantly
try to keep him sober enough to perform his small role. Belinda, while
appearing saccharine-sweet, spreads gossip among, and about, her cast mates.
These issues affect the performance in myriad, hilarious ways.
Later, at another performance in Stockton-on-Tees—viewed facing the stage this time—the dynamics among cast and crew have grown even more strained; in some cases, downright acrimonious. Where the Ashton-under-Lyne show was marred by miscues, prop failures, and other such mistakes, this performance—nearing the end of Nothing On’s tour run—is disastrous. Yet, despite the many mishaps and obviously fractured relationships, the company manages to get through the performance, concluding with a final botched line reading and the curtains coming detached and falling down on all the actors on stage.
By Michael Frayn
January 23–February 23, 2020
STANLEY INDUSTRIAL ALLIANCE STAGE
Noises Off, hailed as the funniest farce ever written, treats audiences to a hilarious peek at a second-tier acting troupe performing a show. With egos, insecurities, and tempers flaring backstage—and forgotten lines, missed cues, and misplaced sardines onstage—this cast threatens to strike the old adage “the show must go on.” Michael Frayn’s dizzying play-within-a-play classic is sure to leave you doubled over with laughter.
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