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Special permission to stage a classic hit

PUBLISHED: 15:25 30 January 2008 | UPDATED: 11:30 01 July 2010

SPECIAL permission was needed by the Bromley Little Theatre to stage Michael Frayn s classic farce Noises Off last week – from the author himself, writes Mark Campbell.

SPECIAL permission was needed by the Bromley Little Theatre to stage Michael Frayn's classic farce Noises Off last week - from the author himself, writes Mark Campbell.

Amateur performing rights are unavailable, but because theatre member Jane Lobb interviewed Frayn for a magazine, the writer made an exception and allowed the BLT to put it on.

The play follows a group of actors attempting to mount a provincial tour of a generic farce called Nothing On.

Act One is the problematic dress rehearsal, hours before opening night.

Act Two is the same scene, at a different venue, but witnessed from backstage.

By Act Three, the tour is nearly over and the play is now a chaotic shambles.

Director Paul Johnson kept the actors on their toes throughout, aided by his enforced appearance on stage (replacing another actor) as the fictitious director Lloyd Dallas.

Nikki Packham was a ditzy Dotty Otley, playing a charlady with a hilarious line in malapropisms, while Charlie Mafham's obvious charms were put to good use as the dimwitted sex kitten Brooke Ashton.

Patrick Neylan, although likeable, didn't quite convince as Frederick Fellowes, but this was more than made up for in Martin Dales' uncannily accurate portrayal of a stressed, middle-aged actor sweatily struggling with onstage calamities and backstage furores.

Jane Lobb and Glenn Aylott were the harassed stage crew, while leggy Samantha Barrass was the maturer sex interest with Bill Morley a drunken old ham who never got his entrances (or lines) quite right.

Although it took a while, Tony Jenner and Paul Johnson's ingenious two-tiered set successfully swivelled 180 degrees in full view of the audience - a real feat for such a tiny stage.

Meanwhile real-life Stage Manager Julie Cocker's organisational skills were stretched to the full by the many props and costume changes required for this demanding show.

The playwright's only real failing was in making the characters' personal lives rather less interesting than their on-stage mishaps; this meant that Act One was a little pedestrian at times.

But after the interval, breakneck slapstick was the order of the day and the play really came alive.

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