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REVIEW: 'Noises Off' by Centenary Theatre Group

A Hilarious Journey into the Chaotic World of Theatre


Centenary Theatre Group's rendition of Michael Frayn's "Noises Off" offers a wild ride behind the scenes of a troubled stage production, featuring a motley crew of unstable actors, a hot-tempered director, and an overwhelmed stage crew. As the characters struggle to stage the tacky comedy titled 'Nothing On,' the boundaries between their on-stage roles and off-stage lives blur.


Divided into three acts, the production guides the audience from a frustrating technical rehearsal to the backstage mayhem during a live performance, culminating in a disastrous final performance. Michael Frayn’s script not only keeps us laughing at the absurdity but also offers a fond look at the quirks and follies of theatre people.

Act One: The Technical Rehearsal

The commotion commences with a frantic midnight technical rehearsal preceding the opening performance. Amidst missed cues, forgotten lines, and misplaced props (particularly those pesky sardines!), director Lloyd Dallas, portrayed with sarcastic flair by Michael Civitano, navigates the madness from his seat with us in the audience. This act sets the stage for the chaos to come, introducing us to each character's quirks and flaws and showcasing the stressful reality of last-minute preparations where you sometimes must “use opening night as the dress rehearsal.”


Act Two: Backstage Mayhem

In Act Two the audience is treated to a offstage perspective during a live performance - complete with the familiar backstage blue lighting. Here, the crumbling relationships among the cast take centre stage as romantic rivalries, personal quarrels, and hidden alcohol create a whirlwind of silent chaos. The use of mime and slapstick is brilliant, as the cast engage in noiseless arguments and panicked efforts to salvage the show despite everything going awry backstage. It’s a testament to these actors’ skills that the sheer amount of interaction in this Act is both apparent and hysterical – you seriously need nine pairs of eyes to watch everything going on!


Act Three: The Grand Finale

The production reaches its peak of absurdity in the final act as the onstage performance disintegrates into utter mayhem with the actors ad-libbing furiously to cover up mistakes. Set malfunctions, mid-show covers, misplaced sardines, and on-stage injuries cause endless trouble, but the persistent performers are determined to see the show through to its end no matter what!

A Night of Relatable Comedy

If you've ever been involved in theatre, you will find yourself nodding along to the relatable moments and reminiscing about the wonderful mess that is live performance. From the director’s stress-induced meltdown to the stage manager being told to take a break only to be immediately bombarded with more tasks, these scenes strike a chord with those who have experienced the high-pressure environment and often thankless grind of theatre work. Furthermore, the inevitable mishaps and injuries that plague performers during live performances resonate with painful realism - having broken a foot on-stage myself! Plus, I really enjoyed the constant – and I mean literally constant - use of pet names like "love" and "dear" between the cast to maintain their façade of camaraderie, despite the underlying tensions.

Spot-On Casting

The cast delivers a stellar performance together, while each member shines in their respective roles with a blend of hilarity and sincerity. I must mention them all because there wasn't a single character I disliked!

  • Samantha O’Hare's portrayal of Belinda exudes warmth and vivacity, balancing her dual roles as supportive peacemaker and backstage gossip monger effortlessly.

  • Bob Polowyj embodies the endearing cluelessness of Selsdon, the veteran actor with a penchant for the bottle. His forgetful antics and loveable quirks earn frequent laughter.

  • Artemisia Allan's version of Brooke showcases her comedic speech and physicality. She depicts the perpetually ditzy actress with unwavering commitment to her character, eliciting laughter with every blank expression and whimsical gesture.

  • Michael Civitano's depiction of Lloyd, the stressed director, strikes a perfect balance between exasperation and humour with his attempts to reign in the chaos while juggling his love life.

  • Brent Jeffrey's portrayal of Garry is exceptional. He captures the character's inability to improvise with comic timing and his tendency for jealously with expressive physicality, especially in Act Two, which made him a favourite of mine!

  • Eleni Koutsoukis brings a pitiful sweetness to the role of Poppy, the overworked and overly emotional assistant stage manager. Her portrayal conveys Poppy's desperation and vulnerability well, particularly in her interactions with Lloyd.

  • Kip Jeffree's portrayal of Tim, the overburdened stage manager who is expected to cover roles, fix the set, and run personal errands is both disheartening and hilarious. His depiction of Tim's exhaustion and flustered demeanour resonates with anyone familiar with managing chaotic backstage antics.

  • Natalie Pedler's performance brings the eccentric Dotty to life. Her expressive portrayal captures the character's comedic mishaps with finesse as she struggles with her lines and props - and those darn sardines causing her such trouble in Act 3!

  • James Sheehan embodies the neuroticism of Freddie with authenticity, including the actor’s confusion over the director’s choices, his need to constantly disturb rehearsal in Act One, and his fear of blood stealing the spotlight in Acts Two and Three.


Final Thoughts

The intimate setting of the Centenary Theatre, accommodating around 80 people, adds to the appeal and immediacy of this performance. The crafted décor of the foyer sets the mood and the inclusion of a fake program for 'Nothing On' is a delightful touch. Audience laughter was frequent and hearty, indicating a crowd well-acquainted with the tribulations of theatre. Moreover, the impeccable blocking by the real director, William McCreery-Rye, involving the eight doors reveals the intricate timing and coordination required for such a demanding spectacle!


Despite being over forty years old, ‘Noises Off’ remains a timeless gem of farcical theatre, boasting humour and situations as relevant and relatable as ever. Its enduring appeal lies in its slapstick physical comedy and witty dialogue, similar to an episode of ‘Fawlty Towers.' This fast-paced comedy is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, promising a night of entertainment for all. So do yourself a favour and catch this cast's performance before it closes on June 9!



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