Farce Comedy At Its Best In 'Noises Off'

Anyone who knows a thespian has surely come to realize that the drama doesn't always end on stage. In the Santiago Stage’s production of Noises Off directors Vinka Diaz Gomez and Mark Raymond gave the audience a colorful peek into the trials and tribulations of putting on a play and the hilarious consequences that arise when actors fail to keep their private lives private. Noises Off, performed by Santiago Stage theater troupe from April 30 to May 6, proved that old-fashioned slapstick comedy can still make an audience giggle.

Photo by Tara Bowker
Photo by Tara Bowker

A play within a play, or perhaps more aptly, a farce within a farce, Noises Off can be confusing at first. We begin by witnessing a dress rehearsal of a play named "Nothing On," a racy, slapstick story about Philip and Flavia Brent (Zenan Delaney and Tara Elliot). The Brents are an extravagant couple who return to their home for a naughty weekend after spending some time in Spain trying to avoid the tax office. Unfortunately, the Brents fail to inform their absent-minded housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett (Helen Huthnance), and the estate agent, Roger Tramplemain (Humberto Soriano), about their return. However, the cast can barely make it through the first act as the director Lloyd Dallas (Claudio Guiloff) is faced with a cast of emotional thespians that just can’t seem to hold it together.

Throughout act one, tensions are high, lines are floundered and props (namely, a controversial plate of sardines) are misplaced. The romances and grievances between the cast members soon start to seep into the dress rehearsal, much to the despair of the desperate director, Lloyd. As the play unravels, the behind-the-scenes antics of the actors become far juicier than the play itself.

Photo by Tara Bowker
Photo by Tara Bowker

In the second act, it is the premiere of "Nothing On." However, the audience doesn't see "Nothing On;" instead the set is cleverly turned around to reveal what goes on backstage during the performance. Dotty Otley, charmingly played by Helen Huthnance, is as dotty as her name suggests. In “Nothing On” she plays an eccentric housekeeper, but offstage she is engaged in a love affair with co-actor Garry Lejeune (Humberto Soriano). All is well between the two until Garry suspects Dotty of adultery. Overly sensitive Frederick Fellows (Zenan Delaney) manages to get muddled up in the drama and director Lloyd has problems of his own, once it emerges that he is having a fling with not one, but two of the cast members.

The second act is really where Noises Off shined; a flawless example of physical theater, the actors made flawless use of the space on the stage, and the axe-wielding men and raunchy rendezvouses certainly kept members in the audience on the edge of their seats. Fast-paced and on cue, the actors provided facial expressions and exaggerated physical movements that were nothing short of comedic gold.

In the final act, the set is turned back around to face the audience, and time fast-forwards to the final night of the “Nothing On” tour. Jealousy and suspicion go head-to-head in a chaotic climax as the actors battle out their personal grievances on stage.

Photo by Tara Bowker
Photo by Tara Bowker

Noises Off was written by Michael Frayns in the early 1980s and first performed in London in 1982. In 1991 it was made into a motion picture starring Michael Caine. Noises Off is no comedy for the timid; littered with sexual innuendo and exaggerated physical humor, it is audacious in every sense of the word.

The Santiago Stage has been producing plays in English since 1972 and the current cast comes from an assortment of countries including the United Kingdom, Chile, China and United States, to name a few. As Santiago Stage President Zenan Delaney explained, it’s an “international group of theatrically minded people who bring their cultures together to contribute in globalizing our productions."

The troupe has attracted a total of 36 members with varying skills who join “for many reasons,” Delaney said. “When they join they can do anything from acting to sound and light. It's really what they are comfortable doing."

The crew is currently discussing ideas for a musical or a pantomime to hit the stage in November, they hope. So if you are a dab hand with lighting or sound or if you would like to tread the boards of a local theater in Santiago, this non-profit voluntary troupe is always looking for new recruits. All you need is a good level of English and loads of enthusiasm.


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