A great cast, director make Theatre Calgary’s farce Noises Off a real crowd pleaser

A picture of the cast of Theatre Calgary's Noises Off

Theatre Calgary’s season opener is strong and hilarious. Caroline Russell-King tells us why.

Show: Noises Off.

Playwright(s): Michael Frayn.

Production company/theatre space: Theatre Calgary, Max Bell Theatre, Arts Commons.

Length: Two acts (Two and a half hours, one intermission).

Genre(s): Farce.

Premise: The cast of a farce called Nothing On, (with its beleaguered director and stage management) parody the genre though their various love triangles, misunderstandings and conflict on and off stage.

Why this play? Why now?: Theatre Calgary needed to open with a strong crowd pleaser this season.

Curiosities: I may have missed a trick but wouldn’t the cast know that they can be seen through the window on stage in Act 2? I also wondered, because Act 2 is mostly done in dumb-show, was there any way to sharpen the focus for the audience so that we don’t lose the narrative when action is split on both sides of the stage? I know three act structures have gone the way of the dodo but traditionally Act 2 is shorter than Act 1. By smashing Acts 2 and 3 together with the added scene change, was this a theatre choice or a director choice? 

Notable Moment: For me there are always two highlights in this show – the iconic staircase fall by Roger Tramplemain (Tyrell Crews) and seeing the look on Dotty’s (Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan’s) face before she tries to mimic and cover for the off-stage noises. Priceless.

Notable writing: Quintessentially one of the greatest farces ever written. 

Notable performances: Some of Calgary’s finest talents make up this ensemble. Karen Johnson-Diamond’s real life knack for improv is transported pricelessly into the playing of Belinda Blair as she tries desperately to create a new plot on the spot to save the show. 

Notable design/production: Anton De Groot’s set on the revolve with the use of the fly and moveable pieces sets up the cogs for this machine of a show.

Notable direction: Mark Bellamy understands the intrinsic rhythm of farce, the most musical of all the comedy genres. It looks like just doors and sardines, but it’s much, much, more …  

One reason to see this show: As the real director says, “Laughter … draws us together, lightens our burdens and (this is science) releases endorphins.” See the play and get an endorphin high!

(Photo of the cast of Noises Off courtesy Trudie Lee.)

Noises Off runs at the Max Bell Theatre until Oct. 5.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here