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Laugh out loud funny show at Arts Club

By Lorraine Graves

Published 3:43 PST, Fri January 31, 2020

First of all, get tickets while you still can. The Arts Club’s production of Noises Off is the most I have ever laughed at the theatre and I wasn’t alone.

The laughter and clapping during the performance was so frequent and so loud that we often missed some of what was said. Coupled with a variety of British accents and a lack of volume when the actors weren’t facing the audience, some dialogue was inaudible, but the show was still uproariously funny.

Michael Frayn’s script is hilarious and spot on, with all the twists and turns of a classic British farce.

Charlie Gallant offers physical comedy with an ease that seems instinctual—I have never seen anyone fall downstairs with such timing and grace. In fact, all the physical comedy in this show worked well.

It is a tribute to Scott Bellis’s direction and fight directors Mike Kovacs and Ryan McNeill. There are a lot of balls to keep in the air throughout the lengthy performance.

Richmond’s Jovanni Sy left his role as artistic director at Gateway Theatre a year ago to concentrate on other interests: writing, teaching, directing and acting. He compares acting to his former position: “I'm just as busy but I'm using a very different skill set. Both jobs are rewarding but they really do use different parts of the brain.”

Sy plays Frederick Fellowes, a wealthy home-owner pretending to live overseas to avoid the British taxman. “Freddie is very sweet and quite dim-witted—I love playing him. The whole play is an enormous challenge because it requires pinpoint precision and physicality,” says Sy.

Christine Reimer, Alan Brodie, Anton Lipovetsky, and Ted Roberts designed the show’s costumes, lighting, sound, and sets respectively. These elements create a believable and functional world for the mishap-laden theatrical troop.

The stage manager and assistant, Angela Beaulieu and Ronaye Haynes, have a lot to keep track of. Noises Off highlights the importance of truly skilled stage managers. 

Some of the hilarious mishaps happen when the pretend stage manager—from the show’s play within a play—mixes up the props and the actors have to improvise.  

In the first of three acts, audiences watch the last rehearsal of the play within a play. The pretend director, played by actor Andrew McNee, calls “cut” from the audience, castigating the cast for yet another transgression. McNee is masterful in this role.

After the intermission, the stage revolves so that real audiences watch a performance of this supposedly touring production from backstage.

Of particular note in the second act is Andy Maton, whose well-honed skills as an actor shine. In an on-stage ballet, the entire cast work to keep a bottle of whiskey out of Maton’s hands, demonstrating overall stagecraft mastery.

The ending seemed weak until I realized there was a third act, without an intermission. Here, audiences once again watch the performance from the front of the stage. Further into the touring run of this play within a play, more goes wrong. The finale of Noises Off is stupendous.

You don’t need to know theatrical conventions, or even fully understand spoken English, to laugh yourself into oblivion at Arts Club’s production of Noises Off. Those who know theatre will understand even more of the humour.

If the worst thing I can say about this play is that everyone was laughing so hard I missed some of the lines, audiences are in for a fine evening’s entertainment. This British farce classic is not to be missed. 

Noises Off runs at the Arts Club Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Granville Street near West 12 Avenue in Vancouver until Feb. 23. Prices start at $29.

For tickets, call 604-687-1644, visit this link or email boxoffice@artsclub.com 

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