Tag: Libby Munro

MTC Presents NOISES OFF

Superb production of an hilarious classic

By Myron My

It’s been 34 years since playwright Michael Frayn penned his farcical comedy Noises Off and I have patiently waited decades to see this production on the stage. As part of its 2017 season, Melbourne Theatre Company has fulfilled my wish and the production does not disappoint with this wild and witty play-within-a-play.

Noises Off.jpg

While this is a fast-paced farce, one of the strengths of Frayn’s script is that we are still provided with time to get to know the characters and understand the relationships between them all. Once these are established, the laughs begin to build until the absurd and ridiculous circumstances the cast get themselves into hit peak hilarity. The second act where we are privy to the goings on behind the scenes offers the most entertaining moments of the show, as the actors struggle to separate the drama of their personal lives with the drama happening on stage.

The hugely talented ensemble of this production deliver superb performances and there is an energetic chemistry between them all. Ray Chong Nee as the pompous Gary has brilliant timing and literally throws himself into his character. As one of the more “straight” characters, Nicki Wendt as Belinda still captures our attention in all her scenes. Louise Siversen as Dotty is sensational and fully embraces the wackiness of both characters she plays.

Meanwhile, Libby Munro as Brooke is delightful to watch as the actor who will not go off script no matter what, as is Hugh Parker as the sensitive but consummate thespian Freddie. Steven Tandy as Selsdon is great comedy relief as he exasperates the cast with his tendency for drinking on the job.

Simon Burke as Lloyd the director of sex farce Nothing On – the play-within-a-play – finds a serenity and calm in the character who yet simultaneously speaks through gritted teeth to his frustratingly inept cast. James Saunders and Emily Goddard as stage managers Tim and Poppy bring some hilarious moments as they try to keep everything on track despite the mishaps along the way.

Sam Strong’s attentive and considerate direction in the real world ensures that despite all the relationships being portrayed (in Noises Off and Nothing On), we never feel overwhelmed or confused by what we are seeing. While there are moments that seem to stretch themselves for laughs, such as the axe-fight scene and watching each actor constantly sneak across backstage to avoid being spotted by the audience, he manages to keep those laughs consistent and plentiful.

Set designer Richard Roberts has done a truly marvelous job in creating the two-storey interior of the Brents’ house as well as the backstage area. The detailing in both, particularly the backstage area, is well thought-out and the rotating stage is highly impressive and used effectively.

While Nothing On is an absolute shambles of a show (but one I would still like to see), Noises Off is a slick production of the (in)famous play with a cast and creative team that has clearly put in much effort and thought into its creation. Melbourne Theatre Company presents a guaranteed crowd-pleaser with this, and rightfully so.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 3004 
Season: Until 12 August | Mon – Tues 6.30pm, Wed 1pm, Wed-Fri 8pm, Sat 4pm and 8.30pm 
Tickets: $39 – 99
Bookings: Melbourne Theatre Company

Image by Stephen Henry

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REVIEW: A Murder is Announced at THE COMEDY THEATRE

Prepare to be intrigued…

By Kim Edwards

The queen of crime is being celebrated anew – Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced opened in Melbourne this week, and proved to be a deadly and delicious production of this mystery classic.

A Murder is Announced

Leslie Darbon‘s 1977 stage adaptation of one of Christie’s best-crafted novels is excellent, as the charming rambling wander through English village life is sewn up into a taut and witty drawing-room drama. The script establishes memorable and appealing characters with brisk confidence, rolls out the action with energy, and moves swiftly through important exposition, all without losing the actual language and style of the original novel.

It is Darren Yap‘s vibrant intelligent direction here that also freshens up the tale for a modern audience. I admired the delicate balance created between the self-aware humour that poked affectionate fun at the murder mystery genre and the foibles of the characters, and the real suspense and intrigue that held the opening night audience enthralled. I call it The Mousetrap effect – hearing an entire theatre of patrons draw a breath in horrified and delighted unison when a particular dark secret or shocking revelation is revealed…

Overall. the casting is delightful: Judi Farr (with clear homage to the glorious Joan Hickson) plays Miss Marple with wry humour and real charm. Robert Grubb has some trouble reigning in the wonderful gusto he feels portraying the bluff and dramatic Inspector Craddock, but the slight histrionics play off well against the elegant, fluid and nuanced performance of Debra Lawrance as Letitia Blacklock. Libby Munro gives a spirited and beautifully stylish depiction of Julia, Deidre Rubenstein offers superb comic timing as the bumbling Dora, and both Carmen Duncan and James Beck perform with aplomb in the rather thankless roles of Mrs Swettenham and Edmund.

Both Nathaniel Middleton and Libby Munro struggled to keep caricature at bay and their accents intact on opening night, but will no doubt smooth into their roles, while Victoria Haralabidou was a spectacular scene-stealer in the difficult role of refugee housekeeper Mitzi. Agatha Christie’s cheerful racism is always hard to overcome, but neat scripting and Haralabidou’s hilarious and enchanting dedication to her character gave Mitzi an ascerbic wit and vivaciousness that let us laugh with her at the constrained British behaviours and appreciate her more naturalistic emotion and energy.

Starting from $95.00, tickets are pricy for this old favourite, but classic murder mystery is always beguiling and as a Christie devotee, I enjoyed this production as thoroughly as the initiates behind me who were ecstatic the plot twists took them completely by surprise!

A Murder is Announced is playing at the Comedy Theatre until December 4. Tickets are available through Ticketek and online here.