by Michael Frayn.
Tour to 27 July 2013.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary 29 April at Theatre Royal Nottingham.
A splendid production of a stage classic.
This is the production which was a hit at the Old Vic but with a fresh cast. Since they all make such a splendid job of the whole thing one hesitates to draw comparisons. Suffice to say that in this one not enough is made of the moment when Dotty Otley sits on the plate of sardines; and Gary’s hopping down the stairs with his shoelaces tied together looks less dangerous than it did.
A seedy company are touring with a dreadful farce called Nothing On by one Robin Housemonger – Michael Frayn has a Dickensian touch for names. There are stock characters and doors all over the place, and all the venues seem to have hyphens in them: Weston-super-Mare, Ashton-under-Lyne, Stockton-on-Tees, and so on. A programme for Nothing On is inserted into the real one.
In the first of three acts, a last-minute rehearsal, it emerges that there are personal rivalries between the cast that could, and do, prove disastrous. The second act, the best, is done in virtual dumb show because we’re backstage and each actor is trying to get one up on a rival without disturbing the play. The final act is the shambolic end-of-run performance.
Performances are next to impeccable. Besides Maureen Beattie’s Dotty Otley there’s Neil Pearson’s long-suffering director Lloyd Dallas, Chris Larkin’s Frederick Fellowes (slightly camp and prone to nosebleeds), David Bark-Jones as Garry Lejeune, who gets his shoe laces tied together, and Geoffrey Freshwater as Selsdon Mowbray, a clapped-out old-school thespian too fond of the bottle – one could go on. The revolving set is a joy: with its stairs and doors the backstage is a comical mirror image of the manor house interior the audience of Nothing On can see.
It’s a brilliantly written farce within a farce – trousers drop in both – with some wonderful dialogue. But it’s also a touching homage to the theatre business: despite their human inadequacies, all the actors in Nothing On have genuine fidelity to their profession, taking the show-must-go-on ethos absolutely for granted.
This is a deeply entertaining and satisfying, technically interesting classic.
Dotty Otley: Maureen Beattie.
Lloyd Dallas: Neil Pearson.
Gary Lejeune: David Bark-Jones.
Brooke Ashton: Thomasin Rand.
Poppy Norton-Taylor: Danielle Flett.
Frederick Fellowes: Chris Larkin.
Belinda Blair: Sasha Wadell.
Tim Allgood: Simon Bubb.
Selsdon Mowbray: Geoffrey Freshwater.
Director: Lindsay Posner.
Designer: Peter McKintosh.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Music: Michael Bruce.
Sound Fergus O’Hare.
Movement/Fights Kate Waters.
29 Apr-4 May Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Nottingham 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
6-11 May 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 2.30pm His Majesty’s Aberdeen 01224 642233 www.boxofficeaberdeen.com
13-18 May 7.45pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 3pm Audio-described/BSL Signed Thu 7.45pm Captioned Fri Lyceum Theatre Sheffield 0114 249 6000 www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk
20-25 May 2013 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Norwich 01603 630000 www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
27 May-1 June 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm King’s Theatre Glasgow 0844 871 7627 www.atgtickets.com/venues/kings-theatre
24-29 June 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham 0844 871 3011 www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-alexandra-theatre-birmingham
1-6 July 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Grand Opera House Belfast 028 9024 1919 www.goh.co.uk
8-13 July 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Bord Gáis Energy Theatre (formerly Grand Canal Theatre) Dublin 0818 719 377 www.bordgaisenergytheatre.com
23-27 July 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Grand Theatre and Opera House Leeds 0844 848 2700 www.leedsgrandtheatre.com