There are less than six hours before the curtain rises on Noises Off and director Anton Solomon predicts they still have about 24 hours worth of work left.
And he’s laughing.
A volunteer is still drilling and hammering on the set.
Lights sit in the audience seats and their cords are tangled backstage.
Sitting beside them, Solomon is relaxed. And laughing.
He used to fret about the details before a production, he says.
Then a directing instructor he knew in Saskatoon said, “It’s not called “play” for nothing.”
And there are few plays that sentiment applies to better than Noises Off.
The title is an instruction in British theatre scripts that refers to the sound coming from off-stage. It’s a perfect fit for this play because the plot takes place in the wings.
It’s a play that is a farce about a play that is a farce.
The play within Noises Off is called Nothing On, but you never actually get past the first act of Nothing On – an archetypal British comedy filled with ditsy characters, perfect timing and just enough underwear.
The first act (of Noises Off) is the dress rehearsal of the first act of Nothing On.
The second act (of Noises Off) takes the audience backstage during the first act of Nothing On.
And the third act (of Noises Off) is still the first act of Nothing On but takes place near the end of the production’s run when “everything’s gone to hell in a handbasket,” says Solomon.
It’s confusing. That’s part of the fun.
So are the characters.
The nine-person play includes slapstick gems like an actor with a severe fear of violence and blood, but who suffers from nosebleeds;
an emotional and oversensitive but extremely envious understudy/assistant stage manager; an elderly alcoholic who is constantly trying to hide his bottles while the rest of the characters are constantly trying to stop him from falling asleep; a temperamental director; another actor who stutters; a whole slew of love triangles; misheard rumours; and, oh, a scantily clad actress who can’t seem to keep a handle on her contact lenses.
“It’s an adult play. Not like “adult with three X’s following,” but adult themes,” Solomon says with a chuckle.
It may not be incredibly risque, but it’s a huge leap for the Moving Parts Theatre company.
The independent company is celebrating its 10th birthday with this production and it is definitely a different show compared to the “deep” theatre and Shakespeare that has come to define the company, Solomon says.
“We figured, if we’re going to do a farce, (it) might as well be the best one ever written.”
But funny doesn’t mean easy.
It is a very technical experience for the actors and very taxing on their memories, says Solomon. Everything must be done just so for the jokes to work. And on top of that, the inherently co-operative theatre company hasn’t changed its ways for this show – despite best efforts. Two actors are sharing the role of stage-managing and everyone does their part, Solomon says.
As well, the piece requires the biggest set the company – and the Wood Street School Theatre – has ever had. “And it all has to move during the show,” Solomon says, trailing off into a chuckle that can only be described as half exhausted, half frantic.
But the play really has its own rhythm, he says, explaining that while distinctly British, the audience doesn’t have to worry that they’ll be forced to suffer through the audible torture of fake accents.
The short rehearsal process has been tough, says Solomon, adding he and the actors started to notice when things weren’t working in rehearsal, they were falling apart exactly as the play predicts.
“If people knew, intimately, how a play came together, actually, they would come to rehearsals,” he says. “You can’t buy the stuff that happens in rehearsals. And that’s what this play shows. And the edge-of-your-seat comedy is the audience asking, ‘How are they going to get out of this?’”
It’s a question this writer is already asking, with only five hours left before curtain call.
Noises Off is running for three weeks at the Wood Street School Theatre, from Tuesdays to Saturdays until February 19. Tickets are all $17 and are available at the door or at Well-Read Books. All shows start at 8 p.m. sharp.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at