Arts Review

CTG Noises Off

The Centenary Theatre Group Present Noises Off by Michael Frayn

18th May-9th June, 2024


Dr Gemma Regan 


CTG’s excellent production of craftily co-ordinated chaos and calamities!


Noises Off by Michael Frayn, the play-within-a-play, is a classic British farce and a must for any aspiring theatre group. The Centenary Theatre Group’s detailed production was fantastic with split-second timing and well-organised chaos. 


Due to the complexity of the production with eight doors on stage, amateur theatre groups often shy away from such a play, yet the seasoned CTG director William McCreery-Rye and cast rose to the challenge with aplomb. Props, mostly sardines, are displaced and replaced whilst the nine actors weave in Busby Barclay fashion amongst doorways and up and down staircases over three anarchic acts. 


To add to the confusion of actually executing the production of Noises Off, each of the actors is playing two characters. They are themselves acting as actors in the play within the pseudo production of Nothing On. For it to work each actor had to convince the audience they are playing two distinct characters with the necessary distinguishing behaviours between each.


The first act sets the scene, literally! The director of the Nothing On play (Michael Civitano) is in the audience attempting to direct a disorganised group of actors 24 hours before their farce Nothing On hits the stage at Weston Super Mare, a provincial seaside town in England. The actual audience has the unique perspective of seeing the rehearsal in the first act, then the chaos backstage in the second and eventually of being their audience in the final act to witness the unravelling caused by egos and relationships.


Civitano is brilliant throughout as the dishevelled director, initially feigning patience and concern as he deals with the actor’s neuroticism in minutiae. The façade eventually unravels by the third act to reveal his true colours including revelations of his miscalculated affairs with several of the actresses off-stage. His character is the fulcrum of the farce around which each actor spins as he continually resets each one in place with ever-increasing frustration.


Natalie Pedler (CTG’s Drinking Habits, Ghost Writer), is an excellent Mrs Clackett, playing Dotty Otley. She is the classic middle-aged stooge in cardigan and slippers with a poor memory struggling to get her lines and constantly misplacing a plate of sardines. Perhaps, they are a substitution for a red-herring, because as the play continues her character is revealed to be more than surmised.


Debuting with CTG is Artemisia Allan, as the scantily clad blonde bimbo playing Brooke and Vicki. She spends most of her time in lingerie whilst being pushed up and downstairs and through the numerous doors, like a naive pawn. Her well-performed vacant stares and gormless demeanour reveal Allen’s burgeoning talent as an acting student at QUT.


British-born Bob Polowyj dodders on and off stage convincingly as the aged soused Selsdon playing the incompetent burglar, providing another comedic element to the chaotic hilarity.


The second act was brilliantly executed by the CTG, where the scenery is reversed giving the real audience an insight into the cast’s frenetic behaviour as they vie with one another, appease misdeeds and inevitably their cues are missed. Doors slam as the actors are physically thrust on-stage in states of disrepair from the ensuing dramas backstage, whilst the ubiquitous sardines are passed around like a hot potato.


CTG Director McCreery-Rye also designed and helped construct the necessarily complicated set with eight reversible doors and frames surrounding a central staircase. It was a mammoth task requiring the help of a group of local carpenters from The Men’s Shed.


The attention to detail, surprising for an amateur production, continues in the programme handout which not only has the list of actors and their skills and experience but has an insert programme for the Nothing On play within the play, which was an exhaustive stroke of genius! The “behind the dressing room doors” section had a descriptive background for each of the pseudo-actors which is hilarious and must be read. I particularly like the mention that ALL EXITS SHALL BE AVAILABLE FOR USE DURING ALL PERFORMANCES which is a delicious detail that most probably will have been missed.


The CTG production of Noises Off is well produced and one of their many must-see plays which has been interpreted brilliantly encompassing all that is the best of British humour with a quirky Queensland twist! 



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