Posts Tagged ‘Felicity Kendall’

I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of this Michael Frayn play. It’s just over forty years since I saw it first and four years since I saw it last, with three other productions in between; the gaps are getting shorter. On the first occasion, I left the Savoy Theatre by a back door, lost and disorientated, a case of life imitates art. The first act of Michael Frayn’s farce within the play, Nothing On, is played three times, but once backstage and twice onstage, and over a period of ten weeks.

We start at the technical / dress rehearsal on the eve of the first performance in Weston-super-Mare when the play is nowhere near ready after just two weeks of rehearsal. The director interjects from the auditorium and the cast try and remember the intricacies of doors and props, the most actorly amongst them still looking for their character’s motivation. There are personal relationships between some, though mostly secret.

Then we’re part way through the tour in Ashton-under-Lyne, by which time the director has moved on to Richard III in Aberystwyth, relationships are strained and tempers frayed but the show must go on. Now we see the same act from backstage whilst the performance takes place on the other side of the set, so we see the entrances and exits with the dialogue a sound backdrop. The director pays a visit, unhelpfully as it turns out.

In the final week in Stockton-on-Tees we’re watching the first act again. It’s got to the point where the feuding makes it necessary to improvise much of the show, with outright war between some cast members, and the director makes another unhelpful visit. They only just make it through, though through what is more to the point.

I’ve long admired Joseph Millson, but here he shines, with extraordinary physical comedy skills and superb comic timing. It’s lovely to see national treasure Felicity Kendall deep in the chaos as veteran actress Dotty / housekeeper Mrs Clackett. Jonathan Coy’s pensive moments trying to understand his character and aspects of the action are a joy. Tracey Ann-Oberman, in her final week, is a benevolent omnipresence, trying to keep everyone happy.

I felt the first act was a touch slow this time, but the second and third found me weeping with laughter again. A New Year tonic.

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