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Backstage farce flags

PUBLISHED: 13:54 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 17:23 16 August 2010

DOTTY: Maggie Steed and cast.

DOTTY: Maggie Steed and cast.

I VE been to three productions of Noises Off in 18 months, the most recent being at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, writes Mark Campbell. It was the first professional staging of the play I d seen, but not the most enjoyable.

I'VE been to three productions of Noises Off in 18 months, the most recent being at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, writes Mark Campbell.

It was the first professional staging of the play I'd seen, but not the most enjoyable.

A play within a play, it describes an accident-prone provincial tour of the fictitious farce Nothing On. It's a brilliantly scathing picture of a bog-standard farce performed by actors distinctly underwhelmed by the material.

Ben Hull was superb as Garry Lejeune, the star whose rambling attempts to communicate contrast with his manic endeavour to stay on-script as the play falls to pieces.

Maggie Steed was the Hylda Baker-like Dotty Otley. Her constant battle with sardines was hilarious. Richard Hope's Freddie was a bundle of nerves, Liza Sadovy's Belinda smiled winsomely throughout and as the scatty sex interest Brooke, Laura Matthews' contact lenses fell out at inappropriate moments. Former Doctor Who Colin Baker was ageing ham Selsdon Mowbray, with a weakness for the bottle and an unsure grasp of the script.

Although at times extremely funny, this was a long evening. Director David Gilmore's insistence on overplaying the comedy meant Act 3, supposedly the quickest of the three acts, passed very sluggishly.

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