Michael Frayn's celebrated Noises Off is, in many respects, a victim of its own fame. Thirty years on, it's a hit whenever it gets a worthy production (a much-admired revival is running on the West End) but it has often suffered at the hands of directors and casts attracted by its veneer of broad humour - and deliberately cheap and nasty production values - but unable to manage its technical intricacies.
The hook of the play is that you see the same first act of an excruciating sex farce called Nothing On (a separate programme for the play-within-the-play is provided) three times. First time through, it's the show's deeply worrying final rehearsal. Next, it's a catastrophic performance two weeks later, famously seen from backstage. Finally, from out front again, a nightmarish attempt in the touring production's death throes.
Frayn charts the disintegration of the characters and their relationships with a fabulously light touch that disguises, but doesn't blunt, the sharper edge to his writing.
I went to the Camelot Theatre in Mosman Park for the debut production of the KNUTS Theatre Company with some trepidation. Happily, though, this Noises Off was confidently handled and genuinely funny.
The performances, neatly choreographed by director Stephen Lee, are uniformly competent (in a play as complex as this that is not damning with faint praise) and sometimes marvellous.
Best of all was Summer Williams, whose recent performance alongside Ian Bolgia in the Perth Fringe hit Polly's Waffle was a startling piece of work. Williams gives the daintily clad bimbo character Brooke Ashton a quite menacing side that delivers her an intriguing added dimension, even if the peril in her eyes isn't developed.
I also particularly enjoyed Melissa Kiiveri and Shirley Van Sanden as the younger and older stage managers, gamely coping with the disasters around them and their own escalating issues. Angelique Malcolm has a lovely feel for the sympathetic, gossipy leading lady Belinda Blair, and David Meadows, Claire Munday and Graham Mitchell all take fine comic turns.
Bolgia and Adam T Perkins, as the director Lloyd Dallas and leading man Garry Lejeune have the tricky tasks of keeping the tempo and temperature of the play on course and, while they occasionally go too far too fast, it doesn't critically affect our enjoyment of the very entertaining proceedings. <div class="endnote">