1999: Autumn - Noises Off
Chameleons take the lid off life backstage

When you think about it, getting a play hopelessly wrong to order is quite a challenge. I mean, any fool can learn his lines and make sure he spots all his cues: it takes something extra to make a cock-up look authentic.

Chandler's Ford Chameleon Theatre Company's production of Michael Frayn's modern comedy classic, Noises Off, was quite simply a riot, full of pace and superb timing, building to a breakneck final scene of monumental catastrophe.

The play takes the lid off life backstage in a small theatre company, who are touring a low grade farce called Nothing On around the nation's third-line venues.

Act One shows the company putting the finishing touches to their production ready for opening night: cracks are already beginning to appear.
Act Two takes the action behind the scenes, a brilliant piece of sustained mime as the "play" takes place on the other side of the stage set.
Act Three, three months into the tour, sees the whole fragile edifice come crashing down as relationships finally shatter.

Mike Morris's direction of an excellent cast wrung out every comic possibility, and this was a production in which the women excelled. Liz Taylor played Dotty Otley - Mrs Clackett, the cleaning woman, in the play-within-a-play - whose problems with plates of sardines and telephones reach an hilarious and messy climax in the fmal scene.

Marilyn Dunbar was Belinda Blair, the company's gossip, offering up titbits of news about her colleagues' liaisons. Jan Bradshaw was very funny as the distracted Poppy, assistant stage manager and utility understudy, while Gillian Payne really made her character Brooke Ashton - the company's glamour interest - operate as if she was on another planet.

The men played their part well: Colin Davey as the play's director, Lloyd Dallas; Wayne Bradshaw, as Garry Lejeune; and Geoff Dodsworth as Frederick Fellowes. Terry James played stage manager Tim Allgood and Peter Nouwens was Selsdon Mowbray, a veteran thespian with a taste for the bottle. A memorably entertaining evening.
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