Noises Off Nonsense

Since its earliest years, BT has been renowned for its top-notch theatrical performances, including everything from All Shook Up to Waiting for Lefty. However, the BT Theatrical Alliance will have a difficult time topping its most recent triumph (performed September 20 -21), the uproarious comedy Noises Off.

“It was just ludicrously funny,” said senior Mike Bascle, who played the elderly and quirky Selsdon Mowbray. “It’s the first show that kept us cracking up even up to opening night.”

The audience was enamored as well. “Noises Off was a humorous look at the different points involved in theater creation. It was very interesting and entertaining,” said  Mr. Brian O’Connor, English teacher at BT.

This three-act farce uses the play-within-a-play device to depict a group of enthusiastic thespians performing a play called Nothing On, and chronicles their mishaps and missteps along the way. Through love triangles and broken hearts, the characters must struggle to conduct a flawless performance while keeping the drama backstage to a minimum.

One of the most incredible things about Noises Off was that the second act reveals to the audience what a production might look like from backstage. “I think the fact that th play completely shattered the fourth wall is totally new,” said Jenn Palmieri (Poppy Norton-Taylor), the only sophomore cast member. “That was different for both the audience and the cast. It provided a fresh sense of interaction with the audience. I mean, how many times do you get to sit in front of one of the cast members in the house while they’re putting on the show?”

Another remarkable aspect of Noises Off was the timing. Because the actors had to focus on the blocking of both Nothing On and Noises Off in the second act, they were essentially performing two plays at once. “We had to act out the fake play on one side, while performing in pantomime on the other at the same time,” Mike said.

“This play was challenging because of the timing, said Jack Brinsmaid, a junior who played Garry Lejeune. “If someone missed a cue, then the whole play would be affected by it.”

According to Mr. Allan Dodson, director of the play and head of Theatrical Alliance, the cast and crew came together and pulled off a tough feat.  “The timing in Noises Off was the most difficult of any play I’ve been involved with. Just getting all the props in the right place for every moment is essential. I was very proud of the way the kids handled it.”

Yet another factor that sets Noises Off apart is the set. Only twice before in BTTA history (the productions of Rumors and Sweeney Todd) has a two-story set been employed. In this case, the two-story set was constructed to add another level of complexity to the performance. Additionally, because the second act is performed “backstage”, the stage could be completely revolved in a matter of minutes and had to be presentable from either side.

Evan Hussey, a junior who brought Frederick Fellowes to life, has been involved either in tech or onstage with nearly every production in his time at BT. “The set was just incredible,” he said. “I’ve never been involved in a play with a two story set, so it was definitely a new experience.”

Ms. Karen Masters, foreign language teacher at BT and parent of a former BTTA member (Miles Sent-Leger-Franklin ’13), had a unique perspective when watching the show.  “This play was different from others because of the British accents,” she said. “I also liked the timing aspect of it.” She is excited for future BT productions as well. “My son Miles will be coming back to see Cats next spring. I am very much looking forward to Cats, especially the costumes, dancing, and makeup.”

After the ten-minute plays and Little Women this winter, BT will be putting on its largest and most elaborate production to date: Cats. Nearly all of the cast of Noises Off will be auditioning for arguably the most famous play in Broadway (and now Blessed Trinity) history. Noises Off, brilliantly performed and cast, is only a hint of the extraordinary performances to come from BTTA this year. Cats is sure to leave its mark on the BT theater.

“Cats will be the largest-scale show we’ve ever done, with contributions from the entire Fine Arts Department,” Mr. Dodson said. “We think we’ll have over 100 people on stage.  We’re all very excited about it. “