QPAC (Queensland Performing Arts Centre) may need to consider installing oxygen masks in the Playhouse to see Brisbane audiences through the June season of Noises Off by Sam Strong (Director) and Queensland Theatre. The classic comedy by Michael Frayn (Writer) opened last week leaving audiences gasping and groping for air like stranded carp on a concrete pathway. A dynamic cast, making good on Strong’s promise to expose Queensland patrons to some of the nation’s great talent, dished up Frayn’s play-with-in-a-play with a side-serving of stitches.
The story is super simple; Act One is the disastrous final rehearsal of a play ‘Nothing On’ by a mediocre theatre group (just quietly, they don’t know they are mediocre), Act Two is the behind-the-scenes drama at a live performance. The actors’ relationships and trysts have developed by this time (even over-developed) and it’s all very passive aggressive and un-passive everything. In Act Three, we return to the audience point-of-view for an end of season show and now we are in full melt-down. I laughed until my spleen exploded.
The riotous comedy does creep up on you; the first two acts are relatively amusing and it seems as if you have seen a fairly funny show by the close of the second act, reminiscent of old slap-stick routines, conflicted actors in the back-stage void, trying to duel it out while still keeping the show on point and remaining invisible to the audience. It’s all quite safely amusing, then the stage revolves a final time, and the third act is unleashed.
The actors are extremely busy through-out the show and it’s easy to imagine disaster if the comedic timing of the players were not spot-on but they were all well in-sync under the direction of Strong. Ray Choong Nee has facial expressions to put Rowan Atkinson to shame and Steve Tandy’s timing as the geriatric Selsdon Mowbray reminds of Leslie Neilsen at his best. Hugh Parker is baffled brilliance as Freddie Fellowes the bumbling headliner of the imagined production and, as already mentioned, Louise Siverson as Dotty Otley/Mrs Clackett may have caused an increase in insurance premiums as patron’s tonsils imploded.
Co-produced with Melbourne Theatre Company and headlining the likes of Simon Burke (AO), what better venue than the Playhouse to stage this show with their wonderful revolving stage, giving the set design (Richard Roberts) the ability to change between front-set and behind-set seamlessly with-in a blink (or two) of the audience eyes. Queensland Theatre (formerly Queensland Theatre Company) has been purposely widening their range of offerings over the last few years to provide for a broader audience and have once again proven that they can do this while still retaining quality and style. Noises Off is a classic piece of comedy treated with utter professionalism by Queensland Theatre and is playing now until June 15 at the QPAC Playhouse.