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Noises Off review at Theatre by the Lake Keswick

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If there’s a more energetic production this summer at the Theatre by the Lake, I fear for the stamina of the players. But Stefan Escreet’s production of this comic masterpiece begins with embellished performances, leaving the remaining two acts with little to accomplish. A lighter touch with the first-act set pieces would result in greater hilarity later on as we follow the cast of the farce-within-a-farce on its provincial tour.

Ben Ingles as leading luvvie Garry Lejeune comes into his own in the rather anti-climactic third act with some spectacular pratfalls. Split-second timing kept the second act steaming along, with particular praise for Kate Layden’s mischievous Dottie, Jack Power’s bewildered Frederick Fellowes and Peter MacQueen’s delightfully senile Selsdon. Heather Phoenix happily stirs her fellow actors’ insecurities by revealing their boudoir secrets, and as scheming, blonde bimbo Brooke, Heather Saunders handles the slapstick elements well.

Michael Frayn spares no one in theatrical circles, including those behind the scenes, and Matthew Vaughan is a suitably egocentric and libidinous director, with Fiona Drummond and Benjamin Askew keeping the middle section bubbling as the backstage staff try to cope with the eccentricities, egos and unwanted attentions of their actors.

While the trousers fall, props fly and doors slam, praise too for the one feature that makes it all work – Martin Johns’ set – reassuringly solid from front of house and revealingly chaotic in the backstage scenes.

There were cheers from the audience at the final curtain, but this is not quite as funny as it should be.

Production Information

Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, May 28-November 9

Author
Michael Frayn
Director
Stefan Escreet
Producer
Theatre by the Lake Productions
Cast includes
Benjamin Askew, Fiona Drummond, Ben Ingles, Kate Layden, Peter MacQueen, Heather Phoenix, Jack Power, Heather Saunders, Matthew Vaughan
Running time
2hrs 45mins

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