After 6 years at the helm of the Bolton Octagon, Artistic Director David Thacker bows out with his 31st and final production for the theatre, Noises Off.
Thacker ends on a high, presenting the loyal Lancashire theatre-goers with a triumphant production of Michael Frayn’s play, one I truly recommend you get the chance to see before the run ends in July.
Noises Off is essentially a play within a play, following a rep company as they tour their latest show ‘Nothing On’; a farce involving a housekeeper, 2 couples wanting to get romantic with each other, a burglar and a few plates of sardines!!
To say that the action onstage is hilarious would be an understatement; this production has you laughing from the opening, all the way to the hugely comical crescendo.
There’s some great characters superbly played by a tight and talented ensemble. James Dutton excels as the Alan Partridge/John Cleese-esq actor Garry LeJeune who is having a ‘secret’ relationship with older company member Dotty Otley. Dutton puts so much energy into the physicality of the role that at times you can actually see him sweating. Whether on not the oversized suit he wears as Gary is part of the act or due to the amount of weight he must lose during every performance remains to be seen.
Not to take anything away from the female members of the cast who are superb, (Jessica Baglow, Charlotte Cornwell, Barbara Drennan and Paula Jennings), it is the men who really stand out for me in this production. Rob Edwards gives just the amount of dry wit and sarcasm to make the cast sympathise and laugh along with his over-wrought character Lloyd Dallas – a director driven to the verge of breaking point by his cast.
Plus a special mention must go to scene stealer Kenneth Alan Taylor as Selsdon Mowbray – the veteran theatre actor who keeps going missing, returning after one too many whisky’s and getting his lines mixed up in all sorts of ways. Taylor’s comic timing is genius and his vacant expressions have you in hysterics even before he opens his mouth.
A few people might be put off by the over-long duration of the production which, at 3 hours 10 minutes, seems quite excessive. However it is not the play that is responsible, it is Ruari Murchison’s intricate set design, which requires changes resulting in not one but two intervals of 30 minutes. In the Octagon’s defence the extra time flies and it is actually quite interesting viewing sitting in the audience whilst they change the set in front of you and you see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
There’s so much going on in this busy, energetic production of Noises Off it is both exhausting and delightful to watch. In fact I’m sure you could watch it a second time and find something new to amuse you all over again.
A brilliant production and a real theatre treat!
Runs at the Bolton Octagon until 4th July.