The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
April 13, 14, 15, 16 & 17, 2010
by Michael Frayn
2009/2010 National Operatic & Dramatic Association – Accolade of Excellence : District 1 – Noises Off
Judith Berrill – Dotty Otley / Mrs Clackett
Sophie Lane – Brooke Ashton / Vicki
Natalie Colgate – Belinda Blair / Flavis Brent
John Garland – Frederick Fellowes / Philip Brent
Mark Best – Garry Lejeune / Roger Tramplemain
Bob Ryder – Selsdon Mowbray / Burglar
Guy Steddon – Lloyd Dallas / Director
Tom Harris – Tim Allgood / Stage Manager
Olivia Robinson – Poppy Norton-Taylor / Assistant Stage Manager
Stage Manager – David Comber
Deputy Stage Manager – Helen Brewster
Prompt – Fiona Cameron
Back Stage Crew – Paul Checkley
Back Stage Crew – David Collis
Back Stage Crew – David Comber
Back Stage Crew – Howard Neal
Back Stage Crew – Martin Oakley
Lighting Design & Operation – Mike Medway
Sound Track – Bob Ryder
Sound Operator – Matt Jones
Props – Margaret Davy
Props – Sue Whittaker
Wardrobe – Cherry Briggs
Wardrobe – Margaret Pierce
Set Design & Construction – Sue Chaplin
Set Design & Construction – Paul Checkley
Set Design & Construction – David Collis
Set Design & Construction – David Comber
Set Design & Construction – Margaret Davy
Set Design & Construction – Carl Gray
Set Design & Construction – Peter Harrison
Set Design & Construction – Sheila Neesham
Programme & Poster Design – Fiona Cameron
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Lucien Bouchy
Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Production Photos – Lucien Bouchy
Front of House – Betty Dawes
Programme Note #1: Noises Off!
TB & FC wrote: “In our opinion, Noises Off is the funniest play in the English language which is why it has enjoyed successful runs at the National Theatre and on Broadway since its first production at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith twenty-eight years ago.
Technically this is one of the most challenging plays you would ever wish to stage and we have been bowled over by the commitment and support we have received from everyone involved. In particular we would like to thank the Workshop team for their unstinting hard work and overtime and the Props and Publicity teams for their dedication and hard work. Our thanks too, are due to the cast who have risen to the challenge in a most professional manner and have exceeded all our expectations!”
Programme Note #2: Noises Off!
Of the Farce within the Farce, Nothing On! the Director writes:
“Since leaving RADA it has been a long held ambition of mine to direct the masterpiece that is Nothing On. Even the title is a stroke of genius. At its most basic level we think of people stripped of their clothing; meat and drink to traditional farce – yes, but surely we cannot deny the metaphorical suggestion that the characters might be stripped also of their quirks of personality, their wits and their very raisons d’etre by the time we are through. Consider also the myriad ways to which this simple phrase is alluded to throughout the play.
From curtain up we observe that there is ‘nothing on’ the plain walls of the upper floor in this charming converted mill and can see that there is ‘nothing on’ the television that afternoon. Mrs Clacker is found to have put ‘nothing on’ the favourite in the 4.15 at Royal Ascot and the couple returning from Spain clearly have ‘nothing on’ that afternoon despite their normally jam-packed social diary. Indeed they plan to spend the afternoon in bed; yet another way in which they can have ‘nothing on’. To cap it all, as the plot meanders to its inevitable conclusion with a nod to dear old Harry [Pinter] in its masterly pauses and a bow to Chekhov in its thrumming emotional underpinning, we eventually stumble on the realisation that Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue itself has ‘nothing on’ Phillip despite his frantic and ingenious attempts to deceive and defraud.
Without wishing to extend the thinking beyond the reader’s tolerance, I would like you to consider also, the paradox of this simple phrase; for if there is ‘nothing on’ then surely it must be ‘all off!’ And ‘all off’ everything most certainly is by the end of the play. All bets are off, Flavia is ready to ‘call it off’ with Philip and the sardines are all distinctly ‘off’ – a symbol, if ever one were needed, of the general decay to be detected at the centre of each character and at the very core of the play itself.”
Of the Posset Players, the programme notes:
Dotty Otley [Mrs Clackett] is well known to the nation as ‘Britain’s Favourite Lollipop Lady’ for her rôle of Mrs Clockitt in over 400 episodes of TV’s much-loved On the Zebras. Graduating from the legendary Teefantitz Academy of Singing and Dancing, she went on to ‘learn the ropes’ for several years at Peebles Rep Theatre. Since then she has starred in a wonderful range of musical theatre and light comedy tours across the land and on cruises across the oceans. She has also played the costume classics, famously reviving the rôle of Mrs Packett in Sheriden’s rarely-performed The Arrivals. The nation’s heart recently went out to Dotty after the tragic loss of her fifth husband, ‘lolly’, knocked down in a cruel twist of fate on a pedestrian crossing in Clacton. After the incomprehensible decision of TV producers to axe the ever-popular Zebras, Dotty is now returning to her first love, the theatre, with this special tour of Nothing On, thrilled to pursue her passion for acting and actors.
Brooke Ashton [Vicki] is probably best known as the girl wearing nothing but ‘good honest, natural froth’ in the Hauptbahnhofbrau Lager TV ad. But she has also enjoyed a flourishing stage career, extending from a widely acclaimed Dandini in Hull to six months in the Lebanon with Pixie Pearls. Her television appearances range from Girl at Infants’ School in On the Zebras to Girl in Strip Joint in On Probation. Cinema goers will recall in The Girl in Room 14 in which she played Girl in Room 312. The is Brooke’s first serious stage rôle in the UK.
Belinda Blair [Flavia Brent] began her stage career at the age of nine when she appeared in the eventful Tel Aviv production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1971 with George Michael in the starring rôle. From then she specialised in biblical musicals appearing in Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar and the controversial musical about the life and work of the evangelist, Billy Graham – Billy the Baptist in which she gave her critically noted performance as Nancy Reagan. Belinda broke into television in the early eighties when she appeared in On the Zebras as the accident prone Miss Mille Malloy and, later, as the seductive alien in the Christmas Special of Blake’s 7 – for which she was delighted to receive her first BAFTA nomination. Belinda lives with Joey Mac, the stand-comedian. They have three dachshunds and two budgies and lots of laughs.
Frederick Fellowes [Philip Brent] began his career in the family comedy troupe [The Funny Fellowes] and believes he has performed at every holiday camp in the North of England. Cameo rôles followed in many of our favourite sit-coms. He was Ambulance Technician in Day Hospital, Fireman Two in Blue Watch and Traffic Warden in On the Zebras before receiving his big break as Ben Folkestone, the Purser in Channel Hopping, sadly cancelled after the pilot episode. Freddie was also recently seen in the comedy drama What’s Up Doc? playing Dr Bob Soul. For the past three years Freddie has been touring abroad with the Nairobi Players and is very happy, therefore, that his dear wife Camilla will finally be able to see him perform live on stage in Nothing On.
Garry Lejeune [Roger Tramplemain] is proud to be the illegitimate son of the ground-breaking photographer Lucien Lejeune. Twice winner of the Rose Bruford Medal for Effort, his many successful tours have brought him to this corner of England only once before when he starred in an ambitious staging of the classic Up the Virgin Soldiers. He also made innumerable TV appearances but is probably best known as Cornetto the Spanish ice-cream salesman who stirs the hearts of the lollipop ladies in On the Zebras. He recently made his big screen debut in Hard Men of Hastings for which he was nominated as ‘Best Male Member of a Cast in any British Low Budget Comedy’ by Daily Mail readers.
Selsdon Mowbray [Burglar] is making a welcome return to the stage after an extended time away. His long and distinguished career began in 1953 when, as a mere boy, his potential was spotted by a Butlins Redcoat. Starting at the bottom, he worked his way up the profession over many years, regularly wowing his audience at the Peebles Rep Theatre and summer tours all around these illustrious isles. He later gained national fame in the controversial all-male production of Romeo & Juliet at the short-lived English Naturist Theatre, and in the subsequent court case. This gave him time to write his first theatre memoir, A View from the Flies. Selsdon played the much-loved character ‘Drunk Man at School Gate’ in the first series of TV’s On the Zebras, and hopes to be called back to the small screen one day. Meanwhile, he has been working on his definitive autobiography, A Life Distilled.
Lloyd Dallas [Director] has come a long way in the business of show – from his childhood beginnings as the ‘Precious Prune’ in the long running and admired adverts for Piston’s Mixed Cereal Snack Bars to being named as one of the ‘Top Ten Mavericks of British Theatre’ by The Gillingham Gazette last year. As an actor, he toured the world extensively, performing in places such as Cairo, Beijing and Luton with his one man show ‘The Last Days of Firoggit Plu’. He appeared in several television programmes, including On the Zebras, The Tsar of Dagenham and Little Bunny Boo-Boo before discovering a talent for directing. Since moving to the other side of the stage, Lloyd has caused quite a stir with his unique approach to the classics, his Shakespeare productions can spring up just about anywhere any time! His setting of Coriolanus within a Circus caused a great stir at the time and was described by The Swindon Observer as being ‘unlike anything I have ever seen’. Later this year, he is directing Richard lll in Aberystwyth as part of the ‘Bringing Culture to Wales’ festival. Lloyd is delighted to be reunited with so many of his friends in the production of Nothing On.
Tim Allgood [Stage Manager] began his career in stage-management while studying carpentry at Jesus College, Oxford when he was asked to construct a revolving crucifix for the Drag Society’s production of Messiah. He received literary a claim for his design of the lollypop in the popular TV show, On The Zebras. His return to the theatre comes after a short stint in the US fitting bull bars to the front of 4×4’s and Landrovers.
Poppy Norton-Taylor [Assistant Stage Manager] is from a family more often on the Boards of leading companies that on the boards with touring companies. Her father is chairman of European Breweries but has been ‘terribly sweet about all this – so far!’ After completing her schooling at Cheltenham and finishing in Montreux she found life far too full to leave time for work. So this is her first job and she is enjoying the challenge enormously. Her hobbies include Three-day eventing, skiing, tennis, reading good books and petting anything small and furry.
Publicity #1: Noises Off!
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: Unknown
Text Header: Safe to predict a riot of laughter
IT is countdown to chaos from dress rehearsal to final performance of terrible sex comedy Nothing On, making Michael Frayn’s play within a play Noise Off!, a wonderful farce.
Wick Theatre Company’s spring production runs from Tuesday, April 13, to Saturday, April 17, at the Barn Theatre, in Southwick Street, Southwick. Noises Off! explores the complicated personal relationships of the cast of Nothing On.
Temperamental director Lloyd Dallas [Guy Steddon] is involved with both inexperienced actress Brooke Ashton [Sophie Lane] and assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor [Olivia Robinson]. Dotty Otley [Judith Berrill] is a middle-aged actress dating actor Garry Lejeune [Mark Best], who is easily infuriated. In order to make him jealous, she also meets another actor, Frederick Fellows [John Garland], suffering from a serious fear of violence and blood. And to make matters worse, Belinda Blair [Natalie Colgate], a cheerful and reliable actress, may have feelings for Fred.
Elderly alcoholic Selsdon Mowbray [Bob Ryder] hides his whisky bottles on stage, and must be watched all the time in case he slips away and passes out, while Timothy Algood [Tom Harris] is the harassed stage manager and understudy to Fred and Selsdon.
The situation between members of the cast and crew continues to deteriorate during the tour of the play to various [fictional] provincial theatres, leading to off-stage shenanigans and on-stage bedlam.
Tony Brownings directs, assisted by Fional Cameron. Tony was also responsible for Wick’s NODA award-winning production of Abigail’s Party.
Curtain-up is at 7.45pm. Tickets are available by calling 01273 597094 or through the website www.wicktheatre.co.uk
Review #1: Noises Off!
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: April 22 2010 issue – page 12
Reviewer: Frank Horsley
Text Header: Wick are on the case – and how!
SELDOM in the annals of am-dram intrigue and thespian sabotage has a document case left on a Southwick pub table assumed such significance. “Please keep an eye on it while I go out for a smoke. It contains all the cast’s moves for Noise Off!”, said Tony Brownings, director of Wick Theatre Company’s production of the classic farce.
Also in the Ship Inn that night were a couple of members of rival theatre group, the Southwick Players. And I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross their mischievous minds to remove Tony’s carefully plotted moves from the case and make a few subtle alterations!
Luckily, they didn’t – and Wick’s version of Michael Frayn’s helter-skelter tour de force of a farce within a farce, at the Barn Theatre last week, was an unmitigated triumph.
Whatever the characterisation is like, the play stands or falls according to how well the director can prime the actors and actresses to time their exits and entrances to the split-second. They need all the accuracy and precision of a Swiss Watch. Paradoxically, the hilarious effect when they get it absolutely right – doors flapping open and shut, as characters come and go with dizzying frequency on a spectacular two-tier set – is akin to an out-of-control cuckoo clock or a weather house on amphetamines.
Well, Brownings and his assistant, Fiona Cameron, must have wound up their cast a treat.
The stonking set, which, amazingly, was designed and built in-house, and well lit, as usual, by Mike Medway, took on a life of its own. It was like a pinball machine as the characters, in various states of dress and undress, skidaddled around as if propelled by an unseen force.
And the cast themselves? Well, as soon as one knew what a classy line-up Wick had assembled, the only question was how good the performances would be. The answer? Superlative. Whether it was Mark Best and John Garland huffing and puffing upstairs, and down again, like a couple of bewildered, out-of-condition joggers, or Natalie Cole and the scantily clad Sophie Lane giving a master class in how to act badly on purpose, the audience purred their approval.
And the ‘laugh-ometer’ nearly exploded when Judith Berrill’s “Dotty-by-name, dotty-by-character” creation literally went fishing for sardines from nether regions where the sun doesn’t shine. Meanwhile, Bob Ryder, with masterly comic timing, staggered between alcoholically challenged actor and a plodding old lag of a house burglar. Guy Steddon had to play things comparatively straight as the driven-to-distraction director of the farce within a farce, Nothing On!, but when he flipped – including a memorable bawling-out of Sophie Lane’s character – he lost it as only he can, with power to spare.
Completing the flawless ensemble were Olivia Robinson as a wonderfully neurotic assistant stage manager and the young, but accomplished, Tom Harris as the put-upon stage manager.
Review #2: Noises Off!
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Text Header: First-rate farce was superbly realised
FARCE is often dismissed as trivial theatre when, in fact, it requires great skill. Michael Fray’s masterpiece is possibly the finest example of this genre. It’s surely the funniest, as the gales of laughter throughout Wick Theatre Group’s production proved.
This play within a play, following the convoluted love lives and misadventures of a troupe of actors on and off stage, was a riot of fun throughout. The second act, played backstage in hilarious dumb show, was a master-class of mime.
The play required a solid, reversible set that was splendidly realised; direction and acting delivering impeccable timing was crucial and achieved seamlessly.
Every member of the fine cast should be singled out for praise but space does not allow. Each actor realised the full potential of their character and contributed to an overall demonstration of ensemble acting at its best. Judith Berril’s caricature of the housekeeper was delightful, while Bob Ryder’s old-fashioned thespian was eccentric, alcoholic and wonderfully understated. Sophie Lane displayed considerable talent, as well as most of her body, as a hopeless actress.
This was “bad acting” of a high quality.
Review #3: Noises Off!
Publication: Remote Goat – online
Publication Data: April 19 2010
Reviewer: Sascha Cooper
Text Header: “It’s a laugh a minute!”
This was a memorable journey from start to finish as the audience walked into the Barn Theatre. A converted farmhouse that not only has a certain charm about it, but when you walk in, one is instantly made to feel at home. Plus the welcome I was given when I arrived was warm and inviting, so much so I never wanted to leave.
The anticipation built up as we waited to watch Noises Off. Excited murmurings spread through the audience from those who had seen the show before. These included things such as ‘You’ll love it’ and ‘watch out for this actor – he’s wonderful’. These comments and more were not let down by the well put together farce that evolved throughout the evening. The comedy was well timed, the characters were beautifully portrayed and well rounded, plus the set was detailed and yet simple.
From start to finish, we were immediately involved in the action as we saw the progression of a play being put together before the tour took place in the final two acts. Wick Theatre Company really focused on the detail behind each line and each stage prop in order to make this difficult text work. With each reaction the audience gave, one could tell the actors loved performing every single moment of Noises Off – with comedy you really do have to immerse yourself in it, otherwise it can’t be pulled off. No one disappointed the audience in this cast at all and I for one never wanted the action to stop.
Every single one of the cast was strong and vibrant, not only in terms of performance, but the energy was high and the pace was perfect. There were some wonderful highlights though. Firstly Judith Berril’s hilarious portrayal of Dotty Otley – a well known actress who specialises in housekeeper roles only! She took charge of the space well and delivered her lines with such vigour and passion that we almost warmed to her…until she kept messing up with the sardines prop! This is the type of character that you probably would not like to have if you were directing a play yourself, but Judith’s complete immersion in the character took my breath away as she became Dotty.
Sophie Lane’s interpretation of the ‘bimbo’ model Brooke Ashton is one to watch out for. Not only is she pretty looks wise, but as an actress, she shines in this role. Her complete innocent air-headedness brought a very different sort of comedy to the proceedings – one that was not quite over the top, but it was also subtle. I mean by this that she had a lovely balance between complete obliviousness to all the chaos evolving and a beautiful charm as she carried on her secret affair with the director, showing a more vulnerable side to her. This was a very strong performance indeed.
In complete contrast, Guy Steaddon’s role of the frustrated director Lloyd Dallas stole the limelight several times. Not only did he show complete professionalism as the ‘tech’ went completely wrong, but it was from Act Two onwards that the real cause of his stress developed…having an affair with two women in the show at the same time. Guy not only offered a grace to his character, but the use of outrageous comedy as he charmed all cast members to keep them happy for the sake of his own was well handled. The fact that he gave himself completely to each stage of the show, showed that this is an actor who is again someone to keep an eye on in the future as he was very exciting and dynamic in his performance.
But it was the second act that really highlighted everybody’s dedication and talent. This took place backstage as each cast member waited to go on. This section of the play needs to be handled well as it’s an equal balance of verbal and physical comedy. Everybody surpassed themselves we were all pleased to see. The audience was rolling in the aisles laughing and enjoying the mix-ups and costume failures as they developed. But it was the physical comedy as the play took place out front that took my breath away. The cast didn’t hold back – if anything, gave each sketch 150% and gave us an act of complete laughter and fun.
This is a show that really is a laugh a minute and not to be missed.