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‘Noises Off’ performance set for May 24-27 at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s

Director Janet O’Reilly (right), producer Katherine Elliott (centre) and actor Jill Kennedy are looking forward to Nothing On Productions’ staging of “Noises Off,” a play written by Michael Frayn, which will be performed May 24-27 at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s.
Director Janet O’Reilly (right), producer Katherine Elliott (centre) and actor Jill Kennedy are looking forward to Nothing On Productions’ staging of “Noises Off,” a play written by Michael Frayn, which will be performed May 24-27 at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s. - Sam McNeish

Your grandmother always told you to save your pennies and someday they would be put to good use.
So for the past 12 years, three women from the arts community have been saving everything they can to be able to put off a play they fell in love with more than a decade ago.

And now that they have cobbled together enough spare change, they are looking forward to presenting “Noises Off,” a play by Michael Frayn, from May 24-27 at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s.

Director Janet O’Reilly, producer Katherine Elliott and actor Jill Kennedy gathered earlier this week to tell how the production came to fruition and what audiences can expect during the performances.
“What people are getting here is the same play three different times,’’ O’Reilly said.
“It is a difficult script, as it transforms over time and is taxing on the actors (nine in total) — and is physically taxing as well.”
The excitement trending towards opening night is evident on the group as they laugh and describe a host of facts about the play.

They reiterated many times the fun factor that surrounds it .

“This is a classic farce, a comic actor’s dream,’’ Kennedy said.
“We had a great turnout at auditions, as those who were interested in the script knew what they were getting into.”

Homecoming
Putting off this show is also a kind of coming home for company partners Elliott, Kennedy and O’Reilly.
“In May 2006, we did a more compact version of the show with the Beothuck Street Players. Since then, the plan has always been to do the show again in a larger venue with a full-size set,’’ Elliott said.
“In 2018, the stars have aligned and we are doing the show that really brought us together. Even our company name comes directly from the ‘Noises Off’ script. ‘Noises Off’ is a play about a play. The play within the play is called ‘Nothing On.’”

Elliott said they all did different plays and different scripts through the past dozen years, all the while building up a war chest of funds in order to get back to “Noises Off.”

The production is directed by O’Reilly, produced by Elliott and stage managed by Ashley Ring. The cast is made up of Kennedy, George Robertson, Phil Goodridge, Chris Panting, Alexis Koetting, Stephanie Curran, Ryan Butt, Kimberley Drake and Michael Nolan.

Of that cast, there are two faces familiar with their roles.
“We have two actors (George Robertson and Kennedy) back with us that did the original production. George played the director the first time we did it. He is doing the director again. He was an actor playing a role the first time and he now is a full-time actor doing this for a living. The director struggles with his cast and be now has a lot of experience to draw on for the role,” O’Reilly said.

“Jill is doing a different character this time. … She remembers her lines from 12-years-ago and to be in the show this time, playing two different roles, she has a host of new lines to learn,’’ O’Reilly chuckled while glancing at Kennedy, who smiled back.

Laughing encouraged
Nothing On Productions is a theatre group based in St. John’s with a mandate to have fun and get people out to the theatre. Its motto is “Life is better when you’re laughing,” and when people view Frayn’s work through this show, they will know why it was a favourite of the three women and something they knew they had to find a way to re-enact.

“We had to make some adjustments from the classic set for this play and do it all on one level. This is a really small theatre and we needed to do it that way to fit it onstage,’’ Elliott said.
“It is a complicated set, as it has to rotate as well as have eight doors, one window and stairs. As it is now, the set will occupy the entire stage at the LSPU Hall.”

Elliot described the play as “art imitating life, imitating art.”
Each of the three acts of “Noises Off” contains a performance of the first act of a play within a play, a sex farce called “Nothing On.” (Get it?! Nothing On!!) “Nothing On” is the type of play in which women run about in their underwear, men drop their trousers and many doors continually bang open and shut.
The first act is at the technical rehearsal — it is midnight, the night before the first performance, and the cast are hopelessly unready.
The second act shows a matinée performance one month later. In this act, the play is seen from backstage — yes, the set revolves — providing a view that emphasizes the deteriorating relationships among the cast. Romantic rivalries, lovers’ tiffs and personal quarrels lead to offstage shenanigans, onstage bedlam and the occasional attack with a fire axe.

In the third act, we see a performance near the end of the 10-week run. The actors remain determined at all costs to cover up the mounting chaos, but it is not long before the plot of “Nothing On” has to be abandoned entirely.

Tickets are available at the LSPU Hall box office or by calling 709-753-4531, ext. 200.

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