Enthusiastic actors are bringing their own version of an award-winning farce to Balcombe.
The Victory Players present Noises Off by Michael Frayn at The Victory Hall from Thursday to Saturday, May 21 to 23.
This fast-paced and challenging comedy offers a play within a play as a group of hapless performers try to stage a risqué show called Nothing On.
Ronnie Whitehead, who co-directs this production with Mitch Collingbourne and performs as the character Lloyd Dallas, explains that things inevitably go wrong – very wrong.
“We have plates of sardines going off throughout the performance, a young lady in a state of undress and couple of guys who lose their trousers at some point throughout,” he says.
It sounds like run-of-the-mill bawdiness but, as Ronnie, 38, explains, there’s a real twist. In act one the play is seen from the audience’s point-of-view as the ‘actors’ battle through a dress rehearsal. In act two the set rotates and we get to see the backstage chaos. Act three returns to the frontal view for the group’s final performance, showing the impact of the backstage madness.
“If you have as much fun watching it as we’ve had rehearsing it then it will be a great show,” says Ronnie.
The director admits that putting on this play has been tough but he says he wanted to challenge himself.
Rodney Saunders from Balcombe, who plays the alcoholic and somewhat deaf thespian Selsdon Mowbray, agrees that the process has been difficult.
“It is often said that farce is the most difficult form of acting,” says Rodney, 72. “I think probably the entire cast would agree that our experience to date has confirmed that. It’s very hard work because timing is everything.”
Tom Clark, 16, from East Grinstead, who plays timid stage manager Tim Allgood, says he was daunted when he first read the script but is pleased with the end result.
“I like the difficulty actually,” says Tom, who recently appeared in Ariel Company Theatre’s Edelweiss Pirates. “It’s very nice to see the company be able to take that thing that was so wild and put it together and make it wonderful.”
It’s been a fun family experience for Tom as well. His sister Molly Clark (17), mother Viv Clark (49) and grandmother Joyce Baldwin (71) are also acting in the show.
Molly, from East Grinstead, who plays clueless airhead Brooke Ashton, enjoys am-dram but has also done paid acting work before.
“I did Tulleys Farm Shocktober,” she says. “It was really great. The best thing I’ve ever done actually.”
She laughs: “I was what’s called a ‘creature’ in the cellar. It’s kind of like a zombie but it required a lot of energy and noise and a sore throat.”
Viv, also from East Grinstead, who puts in a strong performance as the caring Belinda Blair, says: “I haven’t been on a stage for a long, long time. In fact, I’d never really done much acting at all so the whole thing’s been a massive challenge but really enjoyable.”
Joyce, from Crawley, plays forgetful actress Dotty and says that she encouraged her family to get involved with am-dram from an early age. She also persuaded her daughter Viv to take part in Noises Off.
“It’s nice because twice a week when we come to rehearsals I can see my whole family,” says Joyce.
Jon Hunt from Crawley Down, who plays the hot-headed Garry Lejeune, finds this play appealing for a different reason.
“I did actually play Noises Off 20 years ago as Tim,” says Jon, now 43, explaining that it feels great to revisit this show.
So what does Jon find so appealing about amateur dramatics in general?
“I think it’s more about building a relationship with the whole cast,” he says. “You spend a lot of time together and you get very close and then you actually get to have fun with them onstage for the last few performances.”
Noises Off also stars Emily Holland as ditzy assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor and Michael Mergler as fearful actor Frederick Fellowes.
It starts at 7.30pm with a 2.30pm performance on Saturday.
Tickets cost £10 from Threads in Balcombe. Alternatively, call 01444 811372.
Visit www.victoryplayers.co.uk to find out more about the group.