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Boundary Players - Noises Off

15th to 19th May 2007.

This was the NWN review.

Out with a bang

Boundary Players: Noises Off, at the William Penney Theatre, Tadley, from Tuesday, May 15 to Saturday, May 19

I saw Noises Off when it first appeared in the West End, years ago, and I recall that at one point I actually fell off my seat laughing. Had there been more legroom in the William Penney Theatre, I might well have done so again.

Boundary Players ended their 2006/07 season on a real high note, doing full justice to Michael Frayn's hilarious play-within-a-play.

Following the trials and tribulations of a minor touring theatre company, the play starts with the dress rehearsal for a budget farce called Nothing On, where beleaguered director Lloyd Dallas (nicely played by Steve Schollar) battles desperately with absentee cast members, inane questions about the script, and endless plates of sardines from the props table.

Act two finds the company backstage, a month later, where 'the show must go on' despite a mass of seething and complex relationships that drive the cast to near-breaking point.

Act three (which doesn't quite measure up to the humour of the earlier scenes) shows the play at the end of its run, a pale and quivering imitation of the original.

Director Michele Middleditch should be complimented for drilling her cast to deliver quick-fire dialogue and smooth action, at a cracking pace throughout.

Pat Archer was excellent as the fading star Dotty Otley, Julie Abbott gave a strong performance as Belinda the gossip, and Francesca Croft was well cast as Brooke. Dave Stephenson was in fine form as Frederick (whose bouts of stress inevitably led to numerous nose-bleeds), and Gavin Crow worked hard to convey the drunken bearing of the elderly Selsdon (though he needed a little more make-up to complete the image). Chris Nunn gave a superb performance as Garry - it's no easy task running up and down the stairs so purposefully with your shoelaces tied together - and Richard Mier and Jennifer Southern worked together with good comic effect as the backstage team Tim and Poppy.

This play relies heavily on strong set design, and producer/stage managers Paul Robinson and Andy Abbott deserve praise for their revolving masterpiece of a set, with eight entrances viewed from both sides.

The performance was full of memorable hilarious moments - such as an on-stage search for Brooke's contact lens and a splendidly rehearsed scene where various characters tried to kill each other with a fire hatchet.

Eventually, the curtain came down to well-deserved cheers from the audience.