Tag: Sam Strong


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


Powerful family politics play out to the bitter end

By Ross Larkin

Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities is surely one of the more intriguing and gripping contemporary plays of the last decade. Unpacking the fragile segments of family politics saturated with love and lies, tension and grief – Baitz’s comedy drama reveals its inner belly at just the right pace.


The MTC’s version opened this week, to a very receptive crowd. Director Sam Strong has perfectly cast Robyn Nevin as the simmering Polly, doing everything in her power to suppress her past, while maintaining an edge of ruthless charm. Nevin is utterly convincing in her portrayal of a privileged, somewhat manipulative woman who is dangerously close to breaking down.

Daughter Brooke, however (Sacha Horler), enters with nothing left to lose, and very little tolerance for her family’s insincerities. Horler offers a tremendous balance of light, shade and the chasm in between. Her unwinding and revealing at just the right pace and level of authenticity showcases Horler as the diverse and believable actress she is. The beautiful aspect to Nevin and Horler’s performances is that one does not ever see them ‘working’: we cannot see the acting, we are only absorbed by the truth of the characters.

John Gaden as husband Lyman is equally fitting in his transformation from loving family man to nervous wreck. It’s a demanding role which could very easily fall flat with a less-experienced actor or under the wrong direction. Gaden doesn’t disappoint with his direct and uncompromising performance.

Ian Meadows and Sue Jones as son Trip and Aunt Silda respectively begin as borderline caricatures, with pantomine gestures and postures. Fortunately, however, in spite of restricting themselves initially to exaggerated comic relief, Meadows and Jones do manage to absorb themselves in the unfolding drama, and by the end, both deliver powerful punches.

An obvious choice was made to stage most of the family drama in a living room behind large glass windows, to create the feeling that one is on the outside observing the action, like trapped fish in a bowl. While this technique was aesthetically interesting and in line with the play’s concept, it did, at times, prevent complete engagement between audience and drama. There was literally a wall between us, which more than likely prevented some great opportunities for intimacy.

Nonetheless, Strong has achieved great momentum with Other Desert Cities, helped in no uncertain terms by its brilliant lead actors, and this remains one of the most riveting and unforgettable plays of our generation. 

Venue Southbank Theatre, The Sumner

Season dates 2 March to 17 April 2013

Tickets from $58, Under 30s just $33

Bookings Southbank Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au