I recently watched Repertory Philippines’ production of August: Osage County, and enjoyed it so much that I immediately said yes when they invited me to see Noises Off. If August is described as the soap opera from hell, then I believe that Noises Off is the funniest thing to hit theaters this year.
Noises Off is a play within a play, and tells the story of an increasingly exasperated director and his team of performers who have to stage a sex farce called Nothing On. Noises Off is written by Michael Frayn in 1982, after realizing that what was happening backstage in theater was funnier than the scenes on stage. In Noises Off, we get to see two plays with two plots: for Nothing On and Noises Off.
Chinggoy Alonso plays Lloyd Dallas, the director of the play in Noises Off
Frances Makil Ignacio plays Dotty Otley, a forgetful actress who plays Mrs. Clackett
Paul Holme plays alcoholic actor Selsdon Mowbray, who plays a burglar
Shiela Valderrama-Martinez plays optimistic star Belinda Blair, who plays Flavia Brent
Lorenz Martinez plays Garry Lejeune, who plays Roger Tramplemain
Carla Guevara-Laforteza plays Brooke Ashton, who plays the sexpot Vicki
Gerard Sison plays Frederick Fellowes, who in turn plays Philip Brent
Peachy Atilano plays Poppy Norton-Taylor, Noises Off’s assistant stage manager
Nico Dans plays Tim Allgood, the company stage manager
Noises Off is the story of a theater company who’s about to stage a production of Nothing On. Lloyd’s patience is running thin because aside from a formulaic farce with a thin plot, he has to deal with actors who have problems with authority, memory, and sobriety.
Aside from this, he also has to deal with the personal and complex relationships the actors (and himself) have with each other. Revelations keep pouring as rehearsals continue.
After a month, the play is up-and-running but the relationships have soured. This is where the comedy happens. As the actors run back and forth between backstage and onstage, there are threats of walking out, misplaced props, missed entrances, and pranks, with the performance descending into utter chaos. And yet, everything is running smoothly onstage, making us wonder what goes on behind the scenes of a real play.
Nothing On is the play in Noises Off. It is set in a house outside London, with Mrs. Clackett, the housekeeper, taking care of it as the owners, Philip and Flavia Brent, are now living in Spain. It is Mrs. Clackett’s day off but she decides to stay in and watch television and eat sardines.
Roger Tramplemain, an estate agent, comes in with Vicki, a tax clerk. She thinks that it is his house, and the two are desperate to sleep with each other. They are surprised to see Mrs. Clackett.
They all exit and Philip and Flavia Brent return home, thinking there is no one around. When they run into Mrs. Clackett, they make her promise not to tell anyone she saw them. Roger and Vicki grow increasingly scared, thinking there are ghosts after hearing noises and discovering that things have been moved around the house. When they interrogate Mrs. Clackett, she denies seeing anyone.
They continue moving in and out of rooms, each unaware of the other couple’s presence. Things take an interesting turn when a burglar breaks in the house. And when they all find each other, it gets even crazier.
Noises Off is complex and hilarious. It’s amazing how the actors can transition from Noises Off to Nothing On in a matter of seconds. During Act II, I was particularly amazed at the energy the actors gave “backstage” for Noises Off and then transition to their second character for Nothing On.
My favorites were Carla Guevara-Laforteza, whose portrayal of Brooke Ashton and Vicki were hilarious; and Shiela Valderrama-Martinez, whose role as Belinda Blair and Flavia Brent was convincing, especially when she descended into “madness.”
It’s dizzying, hilarious, and crazy. This is a play that deserves to be watched many times, if only to understand the complexity of the actors’ movements. In fact, I’m thinking of seeing it again.
* Photos courtesy of Repertory Philippines