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A Noise


Noises Off
Costume Design by Soojin Lee

On the Wings of Fate! 09/10 Season

Table of Contents

3 Cast of Characters
4 Synopsis
6 About the Playwright
7 Viewing a Farce From Behind
9 Of Stage Directions and Metafarce:
Michael Frayn and Noises Off
11 Farce in History
12 Farce: Commedia dell’arte
15 Complete Program for Nothing On
20 Language Arts: British Vocabulary
22 Noises Off: The Jokes
24 Umm…Where?
Costume Design by Soojin Lee

25 Visual Arts
27 Music
29 Resources
30 About Theatre Arts
31 About A Noise Within

Special thanks to Amanda Fink and Katerina Schmidt.

Articles used with permission from Trinity Repertory Company, 2001. By Pamela Ward.

Funding for A Noise Within’s Educational Programs is provided in part by:

The Ahmanson Foundation, Alliance for the Advancement of Arts Education, The Annenberg Foundation,
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, B.C. McCabe Foundation, Anonymous, The Capital Group Companies,
The Catherine C. Demeter Foundation, DLA Piper, Disney Worldwide Outreach, Employees Community Fund of Boeing
California, The Green Foundation, Kiwanis Club of Glendale, Lockheed Financial Credit Union, Los Angeles Breakfast
Club Foundation, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Metropolitan Associates, National Endowment for the Arts-
Shakespeare for a New Generation, The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation,
Steinmetz Foundation, The Waterman Foundation, Weingart Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, WWW Foundation.

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Cast of Characters


Lloyd Dallas, the temperamental director of Nothing On.

Dotty Otley, a clumsy, scatterbrained actress
Garry Lejeune, an easily (over) excited actor
Frederick Fellows, an anxious, nosebleed-prone actor
Belinda Blair, an optimistic actress
Poppy Norton-Taylor, the high-strung assistant stage manager
Selsdon Mowbray, an aged, alcoholic actor
Timothy Allgood, the often absent stage manager
Brooke Ashton, the inexperienced ingénue actress

Cast of Nothing On
Costume Design by Soojin Lee
Mrs Clackett (Dotty), the Brent family’s housekeeper
Roger (Garry), the real estate agent
Vicky (Brooke), a tax collector for Inland Revenue
Philip Brent (Fred), lives out of the country to dodge his taxes
Flavia Brent (Belinda), Philip’s wife
Burglar (Selsdon)

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About the Play: Synopsis

Noises Off opens during the final dress rehearsal of the play within
the play, Nothing On. It is mere hours before the opening of the
premiere of the British farce at the Grand Theatre in Weston-Super-
Mare, England.

The play is in shambles, much to the dismay of director Lloyd

Dallas who is at his wit’s end—halting the show every few lines to
correct the fumbling and sometimes missing actors. The actors
themselves are greatly distracted by personal problems ranging
from divorce, illicit love affairs, alcoholism, missing contact lenses,
and a good number of nosebleeds. Coupled with these personal
challenges, it is clear that actors cannot remember lines, entrances,
exits, blocking, and in the case of Brooke—what the play is about
or what she is doing. Actor Garry Lejeune claims to be unaware
that the rehearsal is indeed a final dress rehearsal, claiming that
“we’re all thinking of it as the technical”.

Lloyd Dallas patiently sits in the darkened auditorium, shouting

directions to the befuddled cast.

For this act, the real audience sits backstage as the set has been
turned 180 degrees during the intermission. We can hear actors
performing the play Nothing On as they face the back wall of
the real theatre, and our view is restricted to the back side of the
actors and scenery flats.

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The play has been on the road for one month now, and the
production chaos continues. The quality of interpersonal
relationships and acting performances have deteriorated
significantly. Garry and Dotty, who had previously been in a
relationship, are at odds after Garry sees Dotty flirting with
the clueless Frederick. Both Garry and Dotty initially refuse
to perform, locking themselves in their respective dressing
rooms. Poppy, the assistant stage manager, is pregnant,
and actor Selsdon Mowbray is trying to stay sober in
between scenes.

Although once a show has been launched the director’s job

is ended, Lloyd returns in order to comfort his lover—actor
Brooke Ashton. He enters and immediately encounters
Tim. Wishing to avoid seeing Poppy, he instructs Tim to
lie and say that he is still away directing a production of
Richard III in Wales. Lloyd then sends Tim to buy flowers
that he might take to Brooke during intermission, giving
Tim special directions not to let Poppy see the flowers.

Confusion ensues, as Selsdon appears in and out of the

woman’s bathroom in order to sneak slugs of whiskey,
the front of house calls have been repeated out of order
countless times, and Frederick begins another nosebleed.
Much to Lloyd’s dismay, Poppy sees the flowers intended
for Brooke. Garry attempts to murder Frederick, as Dotty
makes matters worse. All of these personal struggles occur
at the same time as the performance of Nothing On — or
at least a new version of the play. Most of the actors, in a
state of heightened agitation, miss entrances, flub lines, as
the performance runs amok.

Yet another month later, the tour of Nothing On is reaching an end.
The audience is re-oriented to be sitting in front of the stage once
more, as the set has again been turned 180 degrees.

Tim opens Act Three, apologizing to the audience for the delay in
starting the production of Nothing On, while several cast members
shriek behind the curtain. The personal drama between the actors
seems to have reached a fever pitch.

When Nothing On finally begins, it’s only vaguely reminiscent of

the show we’ve seen in the last two acts. However, the ramshackle
bunch somehow manages to carry it off with numerous additions,
deletions, and improvisatory bits.

The miserable group manages to scrape by to the last line: “When

all around is strife and uncertainty, there’s nothing like a good old-
fashioned plate of curtain!”❖

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About the Playwright

Michael Frayn was born September 8, 1933 in Ewell,

a suburb of London. He began his education at the
prestigious Kingston Grammar School. However, after the
death of Frayn’s mother when he was twelve, his father,
a representative for an asbestos and roofing agency,
could no longer afford his schooling. He transferred to a
less expensive public school but continued to shine as an
academic success and, from an early age, he demonstrated
great artistic tendencies for writing and music. After
graduation, Frayn served two years in the National Service,
where he learned Russian and later served as a translator.
Following the army, he was admitted to the University of
Cambridge and graduated with a degree in “moral sciences”
— essentially Philosophy — in 1957.

Frayn found almost instant success after college as a

journalist for The Guardian and The Observer, which he used
as a platform to launch himself into the literary worlds of
novels and plays. He published three novels before 1970 (The
Tin Men, The Russian Interpreter, and A Very Private Life) but
his foray into playwriting was a bit more protracted. He tried
his hand at writing a short script for an evening of one-acts,
but his producer rejected the plan. Unabashed, Frayn simply
decided to write more scripts and produce his own evening
of short plays resulting in The Two of Us (1970) starring
Richard Briars and Lynne Redgrave. The production was
reportedly so badly received that audience members spat on
Frayn as they passed him in the street after opening night.

However, Fryan’s next effort, Alphabetical Order (1972), a

typically British office comedy, was an overwhelming success,
earning him rave reviews and the Evening Standard Award
for “Best Comedy of the Year.” He wrote two more comedies
in the same style, Clouds (1976) and Make or Break (1980)
which won him the Evening Standard again. He is best known
for his farces, Donkey’s Year (1977), and especially Noises
Off! (1982) which garnered him a third Evening Standard and
a four-year run on the West End.

Frayn’s more recent works have received much critical

acclaim, most notably, Copenhagen (1998), a drama which
re-imagines the infamous meeting of physicists Nils Bohr and
Werner Heisenberg in 1941. He has also written several more
one-acts, novels, and screenplays and has earned respect and
accolades in every genre. He is noted to be one of Britain’s
foremost translators of Chekhov. He is still writing and lives
in England with his wife, biographer and journalist, Claire
Tomalin. ❖

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Viewing a Farce from Behind:
The comedy hit Noises Off is a triumph of slapstick choreography

By Denise Worrell, Time, January 30, 1984

Each night at 10:45, crowds stream out of Broadway’s Brooks

Atkinson Theater limp and disheveled, gasping for breath and
wiping their eyes. Much as they may appear to be fleeing tear
gas or a smoke bomb, these people are in fact the happy victims
of a very different kind of explosion. They have just spent more
than two hours howling and guffawing at Noises Off, the farce by
Britain’s Michael Frayn that is the
comedy hit of the season. The
show recounts the misadventures
of a troupe of fifth-rate actors as
they perform a sex farce titled
Nothing On during a fleabag
provincial tour. The plot of Nothing
On involves a ditzy maid in an
English country house, a wayward
plate of sardines, an illicit couple,
a licit couple dodging the taxman,
a sheik and a bibulous burglar.
Doors slam (the set contains seven
of them) and trousers drop with
dizzying abandon.

In theater parlance, Noises Off

refers to the commotion in the
wings. In Frayn’s play, the Noises
Off are the backstage yelps and
battle cries of the actors, who are
entangled in a sex farce of their
Costume Design by Soojin Lee

own. Frayn’s most novel stroke

is to set his second act behind
the scenes at a performance of
Nothing On. While the players on
the far side of the scenery invisibly
sing out their lines, those on
the near side conduct a frenzied
pantomime with a wine bottle, a
cactus plant, bouquets of flowers,
a fireman’s ax, shoelaces tied together and assorted other slapstick
paraphernalia. It is a pas de neuf so ingeniously choreographed that
the antics in the back-to-back farces coincide precisely, while lines
of dialogue interlock in mid-air.

The idea for Noises Off occurred to Frayn, 50, a well-known British
farceur and satirist, one night in 1970 as he stood in the wings of a
London theater watching a performance of a quick-change, arms-
flapping farce he had written for Lynn Redgrave and Richard Briers.
“It was funnier from behind than in front,” recalls Frayn, “and I
thought, ‘One day I must write a farce from behind.’”

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When he finally got around to it, the play the opening and closing of a door.”
cost him a year of agonizing effort. “I Brian Murray, the beleaguered director
didn’t know if actors would even be able of Nothing On, recalls that just before
to perform it,” says Frayn. “If I could have rehearsals began, “Michael Blakemore
thought of a way to write a program for called us together and told us that in two
the second act, I would have learned to weeks we’d wish we were dead.”
use a computer. Instead, I just had to try
to remember where all nine actors and In the second act, the play-within-a-play is
all the characters in Nothing On were at like a metronome. Says Paxton Whitehead,
every moment. I often felt that I had come who plays the dithery tax dodger of
to the end of the bytes in my brain, that I Nothing On: “Everything in the front of
had exceeded the capacity of my memory the set is timed to the voices in the back.
store.” We always have to have the third ear
out.” Murray recalls one occasion when
When he could fiddle with it no more, Victor Garber, portraying a lecherous real
Frayn sent a copy of Noises Off to his estate agent in Nothing On, inadvertently
friend Michael Blakemore, an Australian- placed the prop wine bottle two inches
born director who had staged Frayn’s 1980 away from its appointed spot: “This meant
comedy Make and Break as well as several that Douglas Seale [the pixilated burglar]
notable productions at Britain’s National couldn’t reach it. Doug brushed it, knocked
Theater. Blakemore came up with such good it over. I reached for it, fumbled it and
suggestions for staging that Frayn rewrote dropped it between us. We’re talking a
most of the play. It worked. Noises Off couple of inches, but that’s crucial. The
opened sensationally in London two years audience is suspended on a tightrope with
ago and has been playing to packed houses us. If we stop, they lose their involvement.”
ever since.
The comic havoc of Noises Off means peril
The physically demanding farce, however, at every step for the actors. Says Garber,
has already exhausted two sets of actors who somersaults down a flight of stairs
and is currently wearing down a third. into a pratfall every night: “I still say a
Blakemore rehearsed two of the three little prayer each time I begin.” Dorothy
London casts and so was well prepared Loudon, the maid in Nothing On, has lost
when he arrived in New York to train the 25 lbs., suffered two broken toes and two
Broadway team for a December opening: bruised ribs, and has a trachea infection
he brought his whistle. Says he: “Once the from the strain on her voice. “I’m so black
rehearsal for the second act gets started, and blue I haven’t worn a dress in weeks,”
there is terrific noise on one side of the she says. Linda Thorson, whose Nothing
backdrop and tremendous physical energy On role is the tax dodger’s wife, has lost 10
on the other. It is like a motor car out of lbs. Virtually all the cast have cuts, bruises
control and very hard to bring to a stop, so I or splinters to show for their pains, and
have to use a whistle.” Seale, 70, has developed bursitis in his
knee. Whitehead sums up the experience
The Broadway players were suitably by telling the story of a man who went to
daunted by exacting the precision of visit Edmund Gwenn as the vintage actor
Blakemore’s instructions and Frayn’s stage languished on his deathbed. “It must be
directions (the script for the second act has hard, very hard, Ed,” the friend offered.
two columns to describe the simultaneous “It is,” Gwenn replied. “But not as hard as
goings-on of the two farces). Says Actress farce.” And not nearly as funny. ❖
Deborah Rush, who plays a spaced-out tax
auditor in Nothing On: “They knew just
how many breaths were required between

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Of Stage Directions and Metafarce:
Michael Frayn and Noises Off

by Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr., Loyola Marymount University

It seems appropriate that a theatre We might note that the play represents
company named after a stage direction three major and interrelated tropes within
is performing a play named after a stage the theatre. First is the fascination with
direction, both of which implying the same the private lives of actors and artists,
thing: that noises heard from offstage augur alongside the exploration of how art is
things about to influence the made. Noises Off is related to such plays as
onstage action. Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser and Jeffrey
Hatcher’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty.
Michael Frayn was best known as a novelist, Films as well have made the backstage lives
a translator of Chekhov and a writer of of actors the center subject, from George
one-acts when, in 1982 he wrote Cukor’s The Royal Family of Broadway
Noises Off. The idea for it was born (1930), A Double Life (1947), and The
in 1970, when Frayn was standing in Actress (1953), to more recent films such as
the wings watching a performance Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guffman
Noises Off... of Chinamen, a farce that he (1996), Kenneth Branagh’s A Midwinter’s
a “metafarce”: had written for Lynn Redgrave.
According to the playwright, “It was
Tale (1995) and Hamlet 2 (2008), not to
mention Oscar winner Shakespeare in Love.
a farce about funnier from behind than in front
and I thought that one day I must
In all of these plays and films, the process
of creating a production is examined
putting on a write a farce from behind.” In 1977 and the foibles, flaws and amusing
he wrote a one-act called “Exits” idiosyncrasies of the actors and artists
farce. which was subsequently expanded who make theatre are revealed, often
into a full length play that was for comic effect. Romance between the
consequently rewritten several times actors and artists, the insanity of the
until the cast rebelled at having to rehearsal process and the many crises
learn new lines every few weeks. that erupt in production are placed center
stage in this genre.
Frayn was, however, able to rewrite
the play for its American premiere in Related to the first trope is the trope
Washington and then again for Broadway. of metatheatre. Coined by critic Lionel
Since the early eighties the play has been Abel, the term metatheatre refers to
an international hit, running in France, characters and texts that are aware of
Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland, Japan, China, their own theatricality. Within the theatre
and the Czech Republic, among others, itself metatheatre refers to plays about
followed by West End and Broadway theatre, especially those which points out
revivals in 2000. Noises Off, despite its the theatricality of life. From the Greeks,
complexity and the near virtuosity of timing where Euripides’ Bacchae and Sophocles’
required to perform, Elektra contain characters aware that they
has also been a staple of university, high are performing a role and draw attention
school and community theatres, at least to their “costumes”, “props” and their
partly because the inspired silliness of the performances, to Shakespeare, whose
show never fails to generate at least grins Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream
if not full, long laughs. are the poster plays for metatheatre,

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to contemporary plays such as Terence Farce in the United Kingdom often
McNally’s It’s Only a Play and Monty manifests itself as British sex comedy such
Python’s Spamalot, the theatre has, since as Shut Your Eyes and Think of England,
its inception, presented theatre and No Sex Please, We’re British and its sequel
performing on stage to comment both on Sex, Please, We’re Italian. Perhaps the
the very human yet very strange practice best known manifestation of British farce
of making believe as well as the theatrical in the United States would be Benny
nature of life. Hill. It is out of this tradition and these
three tropes that Michael Frayn offers
The third and final trope, also related to the Noises Off, a “metafarce”: a farce about
first two is less a trope than a subgenre of putting on a farce. Over the course of
comedy: farce. Farce is designed to make the play the audience watches a fourth-
an audience laugh through improbably rate ensemble cast rehearse and perform
situations, ridiculous characters and even a sex farce, Nothing On, as it, and they,
more ridiculous coincidences. slowly deconstruct. Thus Frayn gives the
experience of watching both the backstage
Farce is also frequently fraught with sexual and onstage action and setting up several
innuendo and the bedroom farce with its levels of action, to the point where the
slamming doors, misidentification of lovers, audience receives a program (complete
bedswapping, and fear of being caught with performer bios) for the play within the
make it one of the most popular forms. play. It is this metafarce which raises Frayn’s
Perfected, perhaps, by the French and play above the previously mentioned sex
Italian playwrights such as Moliere (Tartuffe, comedies and transforms it into a complex
The Imaginary Invalid, etc.), considered symphony of comedy. ❖
the father of farce, and his heirs such as
Georges Feydeau (A Flea in Her Ear, Hotel
Paradise, etc.) and
Eugene LaBiche
(An Italian Straw
Hat) and even
Steve Martin in
his incarnation as
a playwright (The
Underpants) and
Neil Simon (Rumors)
present absurd,
fast, frantic
situations with
witty and slow
combined with
broad physical comedy.

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Farce in History

“The fear that Society as Farce

Christopher Innes, Modern British Drama,1992
haunts the
Farce, with its roots in the satyr plays in Classical Greexe and
cast is that the the physical comedy of medieval playlets, has traditionally
unlearned and focused on conjugal conflicrt and infidelity. Over the nineteenth
century in became a tool for social satire in the vaudevilles
unrehearsed — of Labiche, which caricatured the rising French upper class’s
pursuit of marriage money, and the increasingly cynical
the great dark bedroom comedies of the times that used the spectacle of
sexual hypocrisy to expose social snobbery.
chaos behind
Its physical action and hectic pacing produced a picture of man
the set, inside as the helpless victim of circumstances, trapped by objects
the heart and as much as social conventions, that was particularly suited to
silent film, and reached its high point in the clowning of the
brain — will sleep Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. At the same
time, farce has tended to come to the fore front in periods of
back on to the conspicuous materialism, or when sharp social divisions are in a
process of breaking down.
performance will
break down, and Farce in Noises Off
Noises Off established Frayn as a farceur of the highest order.
they will be left in To that end, the playwright told Los Angeles Times reporter
Barbara Isenberg that farce is serious business. It’s most
front of us naked important element, he explained, is “the losing of power for
and ashamed.” coherent thought under the pressure of events.”

—Michael Frayn What characters in farce do traditionally is try to recover some

disaster that occurred, by a course of behavior that is so ill-
judged that it makes it worse. In traditional farce, people are
caught in a compromising situation, try to explain it with a
lie and, when they get caught, have then to explain both the
original situation and the lie. And when they’re caught in that
lie, they have to have another one.

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Farce: Commedia dell’arte

Arlecchino Pantalone Dottore Il Capitano Pulcinella

Columbina Tartaglia Scaramuccia The Inamorati

COMMEDIA DELL’ARTE: The Origins of Farce

Commedia dell’ Arte was originally an Italian outdoor theatrical
Examine the Commedia from that flourished during the Renaissance. Translated into
dell’arte character types English, the name becomes “Comedy of the (performers’) art.”
listed here. Ask students to Essentially a low comic form, Commedia dell’ Arte was popular
identify which characters in with all classes including nobility. Because of its popularity,
Noises Off are most closely Commedia dell’arte troupes traveled widely outside Italy. By about
related to each. What about 1750, troupes were venturing into all of Europe, influencing theater
other characters in movies in Spain, Germany, Holland, Austria, England, and France. The
or television—are there form settled in France, where it became the Comedie-Italienne;
examples of Commedia it was this form that Moliere used as the basis for much of his
dell’arte characters in work. In England, Commedia dell’arte became the Harlequinade,
modern entertainment they Pantomime and the Punch-and-Judy show.
can identify?
Commedia dell’arte is a form of improvisational comedy, in which
the performers use scenario in outline form as the basis for their
performance. A professional troupe would have a week or so to

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improvise and create an entire performance from a new set of
stage directions. In the first troupes’ work, many performers wore
masks to enhance their portrayal of a specific character. Stock
masks were later developed, as were certain character types. These
stock masks would indicate well-known characters to the audience,
and the responsibility for portrayal of these characters was given to
the most talented players.

Commedia dell’arte bases its charms on the use of free

improvisation. So-called “free” improvisation is free in the sense
that it is not codified, but it does follow some precise rules, and
it needs skilled and well trained actors to work. Each Commedia
dell’arte troupe has a set of stock scenarios, commonplace books
of soliloquies and witty exchanges, and about a dozen actors.
There was some double-casting, but most players developed an
expertise for playing one particular character.

Commedia also incorporates the skills of acrobats, medieval

mimes and the jesters of the early 1500’s. These skills required
a professional vocation commitment from its performers and
signaled and end to the age of amateur performance with its static
expressionless dialogue. Above all, Commedia dell’Arte was a
performer’s theater; the players had to be inventive and competent
in order to create performances that were consistently fresh and

Characters in Commedia dell’arte

Many of the characters in Noises Off are relatives of the characters

Costume Design by Soojin Lee

in Commedia dell’arte, and some of these stock character types

are still in use today.

Zanni (The Italian nickname for Giovanni) can refer to either

the character servant of the Commedia dell’arte or various
stereotypical servant characters of the same genre. The character
of Zanni was an older poor man who was the hired servant of
another character, typically Pantalone.
Later, the character fell into disuse and the word “zanni” came
to encompass all comic servant characters including Harlequin or
Arlecchino, Brighella, Coviello, Pedrolino, Pulcinella, Pierrot, and

Pantalone (Pants) is a stock character, one of the vecchi—or “old

men.” He is a miserly and often lecherous character who usually
hails from Venice. Traditional actions and comic pratfalls for
Pantalone are commonplace, and include:

• Pantalone has a heart attack and his servant attempts to save

him by various means.
• Pantalone is knocked over and has to be helped up.

Il Dottore (The Doctor) is another stock character from the

“vecchi” category. His function in a scenario is to be an obstacle
to the young lovers. Il Dottore is usually angry and intrusive. He
doesn’t listen to anyone else, and claims to know about everything
about medicine and law. He is very rich, generally with “old” family

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money. This makes him pompous and hard to argue with. He
makes many cruel jokes about the opposite sex. An obese man, he
enjoys drinking and eating to excess.

Il Capitano (The Captain) uses bravado and excessive manliness to

that he is really a coward. A foreigner he is mostly portrayed as a
Spaniard, this is because the majority of the Renaissance Italy was
under Spanish control. Il Capitano often makes up elaborate tales
of war and bravery, that no one around him believes. He is also
very greedy and would sell his loyalty to the highest bidder.

Columbina (Little Dove) is a comic servant to the young Inamorata.

(See below.) She is dressed in rags, but looks appropriate enough
to be a hired servant. Occasionally called Arlecchina, she wears
heavy makeup around her eyes and carries a tambourine which she
could use to fend off the amorous advances of lecherous men. She
was often the smartest character onstage. Columbina would help
her mistress the Inamorata win her true love by tricking her father
(Pantalone). She is a flirtatious and sassy character, but never lacks
good judgment.

Pulcinella, often called Punch or Punchinello in English, was well

known for his long nose which looked like a beak. In Latin, the term
was a pullus gallinaceus, which led to the word “Pulliciniello” and
Scaramuccia, aka Scaramouche, is a clown character who wears a
black mask and black trousers, shirt and hat. The name derives from
the Italian “scaramuccia” meaning “skirmish”. Usually a boastful
buffoon, Scaramouche is one of the characters in the Punch and
Judy puppet shows. In some scenarios, he owns a Dog, which
is another stock character. During performances, Punch usually
Commedia dell’arte mask
hits Scaramouche, causing his head to come off of his shoulders.
Because of this, the term “scaramouche” has become associated
with a class of puppets with extendable necks.

Tartaglia is a minor character who is short sighted and with a

terrible stutter. His social status varies quite often — he can be a
bailiff, lawyer, notary or chemist.

The Innamorati The young male and female lovers. These consisted
of several characters: Isabella, Lelio, Flavio and Vittoria.  Since
there are so many more of them their characters were never fully
developed, but they are typically featured in some sort of romantic
entanglement, often alongside Pantalone. ❖

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Complete Program for Nothing On

✩ ✩ ✩ G ra n d T h eatre ✩✩✩✩
per-Mare) Limited
op rie to rs : Gr an d Theatre (Weston-su
General Manager: E. the Grand Group
W es to n- su pe r-M are is a Member of
The Grand Theatre
boration with Ots tar Productions Ltd.
A Noise Within in colla s
proudly present



Directed by LLOYD D
Costumes by PATSY
Designed by GINA BO
XHALL Ligh tin g by

WORLD PREMIE R Sunday November
14th and
Saturday November
SMOKING IS NOT PE ers is forbidden. The management reserve
s the
and tape record e cast which may
The use of cameras , als o to ma ke any alteration in th
ss ion causes.
right to refuse admi illn es s or other unavoidable s’.
rendered ne ce ss ar y by ring all performance
“A ll ex its sh all be available for use du ce ’.
From the theatre ru
les g each performan
all be lowered durin
‘The fire curtain sh

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nothing on

Cast in order of appearance:

Mrs Clacke tt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Roger Tr am ple ma in . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vicki . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . FREDERICK FELLOWES
Philip Br en t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Flavia Br en t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Burg lar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sheik h . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
of th e Br en ts’ Co un try home, on a Wednesday aft
the living-room
The action takes place in

For Otstar productions ltd R

OD Assistant Stage Manag
Company and Stage Manager TIM ALLGO
Production credits
Sardines by Old Salt Sardin
car dbo ard box es by Mr s. J.G.H Norton-Taylor.
Antique silverware and Supplies.
trolley by Severn Surgical
Stethoscope and hospital forth and Sons.
traints Ltd. Coffins by G. Ash
Straightjacket by Kumfy Res
the generous support of
We gratefully acknowledge
in sponsoring this produc

manager, grand the
please apply to the

1 6 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

nothing on
g Room Doors
Behind the Dressin
ny popular television
rds ’ at the age of 12- pla ying has appeared in ma LLING CASUALTY,
‘trod the boa luding CA
tion of JULIUS series, incARREST!, OUT-PATIENTS, and
we lco me ret urn Lucius in a touring producthe great CA RD IAC
(Mrs Clackett) makes a
CAESAR, with his father, was most
cre ate the rol e of Mrs , in the lea d. Sin ce IN-PATIENTS. On stage he versial all-
to the sta ge to Chelmsford Mo wb ray recently seen in the con tro
Hackett, al reps,
Clackett after playing Mrs.ipop lady the n he has served in various loch every male version of the TROJ lives near
n’s mo st fam ous loll to hav e app ear ed wit rrie d, and
Britia lolly up!”) and claims akespeare He is happily ma
(“Ooh, I can’t ‘ardly ‘old me’s ON THE company to have toured Sh rking his eds pedigree
of TV wo Crawley, where his wife bre,’ he says ‘it
in over 320 episodes appearances in the pas t hal f-ce ntu ry,
dogs. ‘If she eve r lea ves me
ZEBRAS. Her many stage ed rdseeds and
acc laim way up through the Mustas of, to the will be for an Irish wolfhoun
include her critica lly the var iou s Bo ys and Son
comic char Le Beaus;
portrayal of Fru Sackett, theOM THE Balthazars, Benvolios, andes, Trinculos, ROBIN HOUSEMONGER k, Surrey,
in Strindber g’s SC EN ES FR Sle nde rs, Len nox Wo rce ste r Par
t appearance the n the was bor n in
CHARNELHOUSE. Her firs n of HENRY duating to ry
duc tio Snouts, and Froths; and gra Aguecheeks. into a family ‘unremarkable in eve hai r
ever? In a sch ool pro the Scroops, Pol oni use s and t wit h red
y, Mrs. ance was as way except for an aun
IV, PART I as the old bag-lad His mo st rec ent film app ear
who use d to sin g all the hig h twi ddly
N WILLIES. DOW over the
Duckett. Outraged ensioner in GREE bits from THE MERRY WI e been the
tea -ta ble ’. He cla im s to hav
rgular) first hosiery
n on the stage SELSDON MOWBRAY (Buof 12- playing world’s most unsuccessful gents fill the
(Flavia Bre nt) has bee ‘trod the boards ’ at the age began wri tin g ‘to
she made JULIUS wholesaler, and en one hosiery order
since the age of four, whenSAILOR at the Lucius in a touring production ofat lon g hou rs betwe
her debut in SINBAD TH as on of Miss E
CAESAR, with his father,
the gre s experience
pod rom e , in the lea d. Sin ce and the next’. He turned thi CK S BEFORE
old Croydon Hip Chelmsford Mowb ray into his very first play, SOthe West End
g Tots. She s local reps,
Toni Tanner’s Ten Tappin way round this then he has ser ved in var iou
MARRIAGE, wh ich ran in
subsequently danced her and the Far ed with every subsequent
ica , and claims to have appear akespeare for nine years. Two of his HANKY
country, Southe rn Afr pan y to hav e tou red Sh efs En cou nte r and
-DOODA! and com rking his plasy, Bri
East in shows like ZIPPEDY Mo re rec ent ly in the past half-century, wordseeds and PANKY, broke box office rec
ords in
wa y up thr oug h the Mu sta
th, We ste rn Au str alia . NOTHING ON
comedy hits s of, to the Per
she has been seen in suchWHO’S BEEN the various Boys and Son Le Beaus; is his seventeenth play.
as DON’T MR DU DD LE! , aza rs, Be nvo lios , and
SLEEPING IN MY BED?. and es, Trinculos,
to scr iptwriter then the Slenders, Lennox duating to LLOYD DALLAS
is ma rrie d ; and gra Cambridge,
IS SE X. Sh e
tribute d lea d- Sn out s, and Fro ths
echeek s. (director) ‘read English at benefits
Terry Wough, who has con chat shows. the Scr oops, Poloniuses and Agu was as and sta ge cra ft at the loc al
in material to most of TV’s ee retrievers. His most recent film appearance LLIES. office’. He has directed plathe South of
ys in most
They hav e two son s and thr ion er in GR EE N WI nin g
Outraged ens parts of Britain, win cial Award
UN E Scotland Critics’ Circle Spe ed a highly
GA RR Y LE JE BROOKE AS HT ON in 1969. In 197 2 he dir ect
ile still at the
(Roger Tramplemain) wh eted Laetitia (Vi cki ) is probably best known as suc ces sfu l sea son for the National
drama school won the cov ce. His od, honest, ent years
Vio len girl wearing nothing but ‘go bah nh otb rau Theatre of Sri Lanka. In rec t known for
Daintym an Me dal for natural froth’ in the Ha upt om e bes
POLICE!, he has probably bec
television works includes RENSIC, and lag er commercial. Her televisionInfants’ his brilliant series of Shake parks of the
speare in
IM E SQ UA D, SW AT, FO es ran ge fro m Gir l at tio ns in the
CR ly best- appearenc to Girl In Summer’ produc
THE NICK, but he is probab -cream School in ON THE ZEBRASOBATION. inner London boroughs.
known as ‘Cornetto ’, the ice ge Parlour in ON PR
rts of all the Ma ssa L IN
salesman who stirs the hea E GIR
ZEBRAS. Cinemagoers saw her in TH the Girl in
lollipop ladies in ON THE ROOM 14, where she played
Room 312.

(Philip Brent)

manager, grand the
please apply to the

1 7 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

nothing on

A Glimpse of
the Noumenal
(condensed from JG Stillwater, Eros Untr
ousered-Studies in the semantics of Bedr
oom Farce)

‘bedroom farce’,
he cultural importance of the so-called
reco gnized, but
The most important or ‘English sex farce’, has long been
on the metaphysical
the attention has tended to cent re
technological advance tity and upon the soci al criticism
significance of mistaken iden
in history, so far as the implicit in the form’s grou nd-b reak ing expl orat ion of cross-
maintenance of moral dressing and trans-gender role-playing.
The focus of scho larly
shift to the recu rren ce
standards is concerned, interest, however, is now beginning to
r relig ious and
and to thei
was the invention of certain mythic themes in the genre,
spiritual impl icati ons.
of the keyhole.

—George Santayana a woman come to some
In a typical bedroom farce, a man and
ty and the Beast, Bluebeard’s
secret or mysterious place (cf. Beau
whic h are supposed to remain
Castle, etc.) to perform certain acts
the worl d. This is plainly a variant of
concealed from the eyes of
of which, though presented
traditional ‘search’ or ‘quest’, the goal
rstood as metaphor of
Posset (milk curdled with as being ‘sexual’ in nature, is to be unde
e partial disrobing may occur, to suggest
ale or vinegar) was one of the enlightenment and transcendence. Som
worldly illusions, but total nudity
first foods to be processed perhaps a preliminary stripping away of
ledge’ (i.e. spiritual understanding) are
by industrial methods. In the (perfect truth) and complete ‘carnal know
of coincidental encounters (often with
sixteenth century virtually perpetually forestalled by the intervention to
sts’), which bear a striking resemblance
every village had its posset-mill, other seekers engaged in parallel ‘que Flut e,
us esoteric cults (cf. The Magic
Desthou tellshave survived. Their
tionfew the trials undergone by postulants in vario
a thou
func tioning s—
sand tale was based on the Star Wars, etc,).
andcom mon obseervation that milk
each of thos tice
l Commission on Procedures and Prac
thoutends to beg ets le more readily
curd According to evidence given to the Roya ts adm it to havi ng
17% of estate agen
a thou sand
on thun mor
dery e.summer days. In in the Sale of Real Estate, approximately
pass ed off a prop erty they were selling as their own.
—Maoldovian et-m ill
prov production was
erb on at least one occasion
maintained throughout the year
to impress a member of the opposite
by allowing the milk to run In 63% of these cases the intention was
illicit sexual activity—though
into a heated curdling chamber sex, and/or provide accommodation for
her used properties to secure a loan or
where the flow of incoming some witnesses had at one time or anot
victims. One agent boasted that he had
ale or vinegar was ingeniously other business advantage from gullible
ter bedroom, then sell his partner the
harnessed to operate a kind of managed to have intercourse in the mas d
champagne from the cellar and a poun
simple theatrical thundersheet. property—and help himself to a case of
The product was then packed in and a half of strawberries from the gard
small ‘yoggy pots’, made from s.
re of the genre is a multiplicity of door
the scrota of wild yogs. A recurring and highly significant featu phys ical one in whic h
door s as the
If we regard the world on this side of the
—Janet Thrice:
are cond emn ed to live, the worl d or worlds concealed behind them
mortal men
The Tudor Food Industry the higher and more spiritual plane into
may be thought of as representing both
the underworld from which at any
which the postulants hope to escape, and

1 8 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

nothing on

or punish. When the doors do open, it

moment demons may leap out to tempt e
xpectedness, highly suggestive of thos
is often with great suddenness and une give acce ss to the
ghtenment which
epiphanic moments of insight and enli
u n d ing glim pse of the noumenal.
f bac eatre
o ‘other’, and offer us a fleet
m o
ite th have
first in a of trousers. This can be readily
The rmation lieved to ival Ano ther recurring feature is the fall or loss
Man and the loss of primal innocence.
info s b e r ev
ei for a recognized as an allusion to the Fall of
ramm n 1599, Verona. It
p r o g i e reveals a pair of striped underpants, in
ared en of
appe o Gentlem f history talian
of th The removal of the trousers traditionally
the tiger, the feral beast that lurks in all
of Tw d a brie I
orth anel which we recognize both the stripes of
e e N d by the lost trousers, and perhaps
us beneath the civilized exterior suggeste
id th p
prov d fall of an inset talian of
a n d l I es caused by the whipping which
rise tates, an of usefu .
s s t r s also a premonitory representation of the strip
cit y al i
e for fornication.
ining or tr was formerly the traditional punishment
conta hrases f
ce resemblance has always played a
The confusion of identity caused by chan
ard IV had a notorious lookalike, Leofric
significant part in human affairs. Edw
tford, who fooled many courtiers and
Leadbetter, a tallowboiler from Sony Stra
wives could tell them apart. On one
visiting heads of state. Not even their
three statutes and probably fathered
ion are occa sion Leadbetter gave the royal assent to
The common sard ine. 13.4 mill re was detected. Some historians
The wor d the future King Edward V before the impostu
eaten daily in Gre at Brit ain alon e. n it was in fact the king, not Leadbetter,
from the Fren ch sard ine. believe that in the subsequent confusio
is derived
who was hanged.

zed as ‘funny’. It is true that the form
Farce, interestingly, is popularly categori
sense of the strange or uncanny, such
often involves ‘funny’ elements in the
and behavior suggestive of demonic
as supposedly supernatural phenomena, de
here is probably also intended to inclu
possession. But the meaning of ‘funny’
its secondary sense, ‘provocative of laug

cely needs to be said that laughter,
This is an interesting perception. It scar
rol and the spasmodic release of breath,
involving as it does the loss of self-cont
esentation of the sexual act. But it can
a vital bodily fluid, is a metaphorical repr
Sardines are even more plagu ed than their huma n
h suggests that it may in addition be
lookalikes. also occasion the shedding of tears, whic
we recognize here a symbolic foretaste
cousi ns by the probl em of doub les and
a sublimated form of mourning. Indeed
ed because it is thought that during a
of death. If sneezing has been widely fear
may not be recaptured (whence ‘Bless
sneeze the soul flies out of the body, and but
h more dangerous is laughter. Not once
you!’ or ‘Gesundheit!’), then how muc and expu lsion s of brea th
r contractions
over and over again the repeated muscula hter is reco gniz ed in such
danger of laug
drive the ‘soul’ forth from the body. The
funn y,’ and ‘I almo st died’. There is a lurking fear that
expressions as ‘killingly
e, and that a farce may end with a
even more spectacular violence may ensu t
or Medea, if people are induced to ‘spli
bloodletting as gruesome as in Oedipus
their sides’ or ‘laugh their heads off’.

oom farce has sometimes in the past
Fear of the darker undertones of the bedr
An early pair of famous doubles t’. As the foregoing hopefully makes
led to its dismissal as ‘mere entertainmen
– Edward IV and Leofric Leadbetter. Arts Council or a private sponsor for the
clear, though, financial support by the
means out of place.
tour of a bedroom farce would be by no

1 9 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

British Words and Theatre Vocabulary from Noises Off

Ballcocks China Tea Service Elecs

Are floating balls that control water A tea set collection, usually including a A shortened term for Electrical
levels in toilets. A ballcock (also balltap tea pot, cups, saucers, and tray. engineers; also known as sound,
or fill valve) is also a mechanism for lighting, and rigging operators for
filling water tanks, such as those found Colloquy the theatre.
in flush toilets, while avoiding overflow. A formal conversation between two
It was invented by Thomas Crapper. people. Usually used when describing Exeunt
an intellectual dialogue. Exit of two or more characters.
Handrails used on stairways or Corridor Farce
escalators. An enclosed passageway, similar to An exaggerated comedy.
a hallway.
Beginners Farcical
The actors who open the play, or Curtains Raiser A broadly or extravagantly humorous
appear on stage first. In the UK, A short play—usually a comedy— event, resembling farce.
the stage manager calls “Beginners, performed before the beginning of the
please!” five minutes before curtain. main play. Similar to the cartoons often Flight Bag
In America, the phrase “Places, please!” shown before movies. A small standard travel bag sized for
is used. planes. It is similar to a carry-on.
Bloke To disappear, vanish, or become Fortnight
Another term for man or boyfriend immaterial. Two weeks time.

Bric-a-Brac Dials 999 Front of House Calls

Miscellaneous Items. A props note to UK version of 911, the number dialed The notifications to patrons letting them
let the Director and Designer know that for emergencies. know to find their seats, and giving
any specific house items are usable. actors the number of minutes until the
Digs curtain goes up.
Buffon (place of living): Living quarters —
A person who is always clowning often temporary. Gold Taps
around and trying to be funny, but looks Similar to a faucet, Golden Taps are
ignorant or foolish instead. Distraint worth money—which is why the burglar
(Also called Distress.) The seizure is stealing them.
Burnous and holding of a person’s property
A burnous (also spelled burnoose, as security for payment of a debt or Green room
or bournous; from the Berber and satisfaction of a claim. A waiting area for the actors before
Maghribi Arab: burnus) is a long cloak they make their stage entrances.
of rough woolen fabric with an attached Dress Rehearsal
hood, normally worn by people of The last rehearsal before the play is Holdall
Middle Eastern or Arab descent. performed before an audience, usually Also known as a “carryall,” this is a
the night before, or a few nights before large bag used to carry things—mostly
Bustups the opening. Treated as a performance, while traveling.
Another term for argument or fight, it is done in full costume, with technical
also a breakup. effects, played straight through without Holidays
stopping. British term for a vacation (not
Calls necessarily celebratory).
Announcements by the stage manager,
letting the actors know when the play
will begin.

2 0 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

Hot-water bottle Paranormal Phenomena Slapstick
A thick rubber bag filled with hot water, Paranormal is a generalized term used Physical comedy such as falling or
used to soothe muscle aches or to to describe unusual experiences that hitting, it is often abusive, but with the
warm a bed. lack a scientific explanation. Phenomena understanding that no one is actually
are any extraordinary occurrences. being injured. Originally, a “slap stick”
Incitement was two-hinged wooden slats attached
To encourage or bring about a passion Pass Door to a stick that would make a large
to do something; to instigate a reaction The door to the backstage area where sound when swung through the air. A
from someone. the dressing rooms are. “slap stick” would enable one actor
to pretend to hit another with the
Lavatory Postprandial Snooze implement, and make a loud smacking
Another term used for bathroom, or An after dinner nap. noise without actually hitting them.
Potentates Stalls
Linen Cupboard Someone who has power to rule over The lower private balcony seats closest
A small closet for towels and sheets. others, also known as a monarch. to the stage.

Loo Prompt Corner Tableau

Another slang term for bathroom— A corner with a stand off stage where A finished stage position that is held by
quite popular in the UK. the assistant stage manager can feed actors until the lights go down.
actors their lines if necessary.
Madeira Tabs
An amber dessert wine from the Pub A term for curtains on a stage.
Madeira Islands. UK term for bar, which also serves
food and has a family small town Tannoy
Masking atmosphere. A loud speaker used for announcements
A masking piece is scenery used to
block the audience’s view of parts of Quid Telly
the stage that should not be seen. British pound, equal to 100 pence. UK slang for television.

Matinee Rebuked Tremulously

A late or early afternoon performance Scolded, chided, reprimanded. Unsteady, wavering; to be wobbly,
of a play, typically starting between unsure of steps.
noon and 2pm. Row
A term for an argument or fight. To Wanly
Mezzanine have a row is to have an angry dispute. Weakly, or without energy. To wan is to
The lowest balcony level of seating languidly lose life and energy.
in a theatre, and in a house it is an Scenery Dock
intermediate floor between the two Another term for the scenery shop, Wardrobe
main floors of the residence. where sets and props are built and Costumes, or dressing room.
Ministration WC Suite
A task; something one is serving or Service Quarters Bathroom and Shower.
working on. Generally used to describe The resting room and kitchen of
the ministrations of a priest giving to his servants is separated from the rest of West End
congregation. the house, so the owners did not have Like New York’s Broadway the section
to mingle with their workers. of London that is the home of the
Mullion Window majority of the city’s theatres.
A structure that divides two adjacent Shack
windows. A dilapidated place of residence of Wings
storage Area immediately offstage, where
OAPs actors stand to wait for their cues. The
Old Age Pensioners. Essentially, Shan’t term comes from the use of “Drop
older people who would be receiving A contraction of “shall” and “not.” Wing” sets of flats, which the actors
government-supported income hide behind.
assistance (a pension). Shindig
A large and noisy party of people. A
gathering or get-together.

2 1 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

Noises Off: The Jokes

Title: Noises Off ROGER: Sheikh! I thought you were

Noises Off is a theatre term meaning coming over at four?
that the noise is coming from off stage Sheikh is an Arabic title of respect dating
rather than on stage. It is also used to from pre-Islamic antiquity; it strictly
describe a disruption from the backstage means a venerable man of more than
area heard out in the audience. This title 50 years of age. The title “Sheikh” is
is fitting given the second acts focus on especially borne by heads of religious
what is going on behind the scenes, and orders, heads of colleges, such as
in the personal lives of the cast and crew. Al-Azhar University in Cairo, chiefs of
tribes, and headmen of villages and of
PHILIP: If in Inland Revenue find out separate quarters of towns. Sheikh is
we’re in the country, even for one night, both a title and a greeting of respect.
bang goes our claim to be resident Much like “Aloha” means hello and
abroad —bang goes most of this year’s goodbye in Hawaiian.
Inland Revenue is the British government LLOYD: Make it four grilled turbot.
tax collection agency, similar to the IRS in Off the bone.
the United States. Grilled Turbot is a flat circular fish
found in the North Atlantic, Baltic,
A Delightful 16th century Posset Mill, 25 and Mediterranean seas, not at all like
miles from London. Sardines.
A Posset is an old British drink which later
became the inspiration for eggnog. It is BELINDA: Oh, I love technicals!
a mixture of heated ale or wine curdled Technicals are the first rehearsals adding
with milk, eggs, and spices. Posset was in sound, lights, and special effects, they
first used as medicine in the middle ages. tend to run long and be tedious. The joke
Another definition of Posset is a baby’s being, nobody loves technicals.
spit-up of a small amount of milk after
feeding. So a “Posset Mill” is a mill, or Garry, Dotty, and Lloyd makes gestures
small farm that produces posset. Hence, to her of tipping a glass, or raising the
the joke about a delightful Posset Mill. elbow, or screwing the nose.
Screwing the Nose is a term for getting
LLOYD: My God, it’s like Myra Hess drunk or drinking to excess.
playing on through the air-raids.
Dame Myra Hess was a celebrated LLOYD: Tim you need a break. Why
English pianist of the first half of the 20th don’t you sit down quietly upstairs and
century. Her popularity grew significantly do all the company’s VAT?
as she continued to perform throughout VAT’s are taxes levied on the difference
World War I. Selsdon continues to say between a commodities price before
his lines even though he is asked to stop taxes and its cost of production. It is not
and the play is falling apart around him, generally considered restful to do one’s
like Myra Hess performing on the radio, taxes—much less everyone else’s.
refusing to stop even though London was
being bombed.

2 2 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

Selsdon (to Poppy) Come on Robin Housemonger
girl, get the tabs up! Some of (Playwright of Nothing On):
those OAP’s out there haven’t The name Housemonger has
got long to go. a specific symbolic meaning.
OAP: A acronym for Old Age The definition of monger is: A
Pensioner that is commonly dealer in a specific commodity
used in the UK. The general normally used in combination;
idea is that these elderly a person promoting something
people have trouble walking undesirable, always used in
and usually use colostomy combination (with negative
bags and are nearing the end connotations since the 16th
of their lives, so they can’t sit century); To sell or peddle
around for ever waiting for something, this includes
Poppy to raise the curtains, prostitution. This name is
they will either pee their pants, symbolic, due to the sexual
or expire from old age. innuendos in the play, and
the general idea that artists/
Enter Belinda from the actors are little better than
dressing rooms, holding prostitutes. So Housemonger
the bottle of Whisky. essentially translates to
TIM: (takes it) Oxfam! I’ll house prostitute. The house
give it to Oxfam! is significant because the
Oxfam is an international playwright is never seen in
agency that organizes famine A Noise is Off. He is the
relief. It was founded in unseen character, the unseen
England in 1942 as the Oxford prostitute.
Theatre Lore Committee for Famine Relief
What is a ghost light? by Canon Theodore Richard
Milford. Its original mission
There is a superstition that if was to send food through the
an emptied theater is ever left Allied blockade to the citizens
completely dark, a ghost will take up of Nazi-occupied Greece.
residence. In other versions of the Though Oxfam’s initial concern
same superstition the ghosts of past was the provision of food
performances return to the stage to relieve famine they also
to live out their glory moments. To develop new strategies against
prevent this, a single light called a the causes of famine. The joke
ghost light is left burning at center being that Tim is going to
stage after the audience and all of the donate whiskey to a famine
actors and musicians have gone. relief foundation.
Now, those in the world of theatre
know that a “dark” theatre is one
without a play. There is nothing sadder
to a dramatic artist than an empty
house and a playless stage. Therefore,
a light is left burning center stage so
that the theatre is never “dark;” it is
simply awaiting the next production.

2 3 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

Ummm… Where?

A Look at some of the

towns in Great Britain, as
mentioned in Noises Off
Aberystwyth: A historic market town and Lowestoft
holiday resort within Ceredigion, Wales. Aberystwyth
Sometimes known as Aber, it is located at
the union of the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol.

Ashton-Under-Lyne: A market town in the

borough of Tameside, Ashton was originally
part of Lancashire, lying on the northern Weston-Super-Mare
bank of the river Thames. The “Ashton”
part of the town’s name comes from the
Old English term for “settlement by ash Yeovil
trees.” “Under-Lyne” is thought to have
been derived from the town’s proximity to
the Pennines mountain range. Basingstoke

Basingstoke: A town in northeast

Hampshire, England, that lies across a valley
at the source of the River Loddon. About
48 miles southwest of London, it is part of
the borough of Basingstoke and Deane.
Basingstoke is often called “Doughnut City”
because of the number of doughnut looking Weston-Super-Mare: A seaside resort town
roundabouts it contains. located in North Somerset, part of the
ceremonial county of Somerset, England.
Lowestoft: A town on The Sunrise Coast Situated on the Bristol Channel coast,
in the county of Suffolk, England. Lying Weston is derived from the Anglo-Saxon
between the eastern edge of Suffolk for the west tun meaning settlement. The
Broads and Lake Lothing heading towards descriptive part of its name, “super-Mare”
the North Sea, Lowestoft is also the most is Medieval Latin and was first recorded by
easterly town of the United Kingdom and of an anonymous church clerk, to differentiate
the British Isles. it from other settlements named Weston
close by. It literally translates to “upon
Sunderland: A city in Tyne and Wear (a sea”. So, the Grande Theatre is located
county in North East England around the near the sea in Weston.
Rivers Tyne and Wear), England. It was
originally a county borough but is now part Yeovil: A town in south Somerset
of the urban borough city of Sunderland. It England, the town lies within the local
is situated at the mouth of the River Wear. district of South Somerset and the Yeovil
The name “Sunderland” is thought to have parliamentary population. It has Paleolithic
come from Soender-land. Soender/sunder remains, and was on an old Roman road. ❖
is the Anglo-Saxon infinitive meaning “to
part”. ‘Sønder’ means “chopped” in Danish
which is probably a reference to the valley
carved by the River Wear that runs through
the city.

2 4 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

Theatrical Set Design Elements — Flats and Paint Finishes

Noises Off presents a challenge to theatre companies

staging the play. Its meta-theatrical world (theatre
about theatre,) is seemingly straightforward, but upon
closer inspection the technical details present major
obstacles to an effective design. Set designer and
Technical Director Adam Lillibridge shared his vision
for the set of Noises Off, noting these challenges and
outlining his central goals:

The design process for a play like Noises Off can

be a challenging endeavor. The large, imposing
set is such a dominant presence onstage that
some would say it is the tenth character in the
play. While the world of the play may seem to
exist in relatively simple settings, (a community
theater, and a living room) there are a number of
specific criteria (functional doors and windows,
levels, and stairs), detailed by the author,
which must inhabit the design for a successful
production. With a play like this, and often
in farce, functionality of the set is equally as
important as the look. The backstage “reality”
of the play was relatively simple to create as it
was designed to serve the front of the set, as it
would be in any other play (escape stairs, resting
places for actors, etc.) with perhaps a bit more
of a dramatic edge making things look almost
dangerous. One of my goals for the design of the
play within the play was to be true to author’s
directions that this takes place in an English
Diagram of a Broadway-style flat. Dimensions: 4x8 country style home. The architecture is therefore
feet overall, with framing made of 2x4 lumber, nailed simple and handcrafted. The second goal of the
or screwed together at the corners and secured with design was to echo the lively, and almost manic,
corner blocks and diagonal braces. May be covered nature of the play by using a bright color pallete
with canvas stretched around the edges (more light-
and a number of dramatic angles within the set.
weight,) or plywood (more sturdy).

Lillibridge designed a set within a set for Noises Off —

and used some of the most commonly-known and used
forms of set construction to realize his design. Chief
among these forms was the theatrical “flat”. The so-
called Broadway flat makes up the basic “unit” of many
theatrical set backgrounds, and often forms the walls
of a home, the background pieces, or the movable
partitions of onstage environments. Flats vary in size,
but their construction is fairly uniform. (See diagram.)
In fact, many theatrical unions require an exam for
entrance, and labeling a blank diagram of a theatrical
flat is one of the test questions.

2 5 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

CLASSROOM CONNECTION: Suggested Activities

Basic Set Design Using Flats: A typical theatrical “flat” is shown in diagram
above. In groups, assign students in your class a single play or piece of
literature. Divide students into groups, and ask each to come up with and
sketch a set design using a combination of these typical flats. Students should
use the flat as their common unit — building extensions, linking flats together,
and tipping them at odd angles to achieve a unique design. Students can
develop their designs further by including indications of decorative finishes and
wood trims. When the designs are finished, ask each group to present their
design to the class, noting the ways in which their use of the central flat unit
differs from that of the other groups.

Screeded Paint Effects: For Noises Off, scenic painters made plain plywood
and other materials look like rough-sawn lumber. To achieve this look, they
used paint glazes and a screed. A screed is a small rubber instrument with a
heavily grooved edge. A layer of glaze is painted over a surface, and before
the glaze has dried, the screed is dragged over the surface to remove some of
the paint. This process is used to achieve interesting patterns—in the case of
the set for Noises Off, knotholes and wood grain were simulated in this way.
Using examples of textures in the environment, (a real piece of wood, textiles,
etc.) ask students to experiment with different decorative paint textures using a
basic screed constructed out of recycled cardboard and slightly diluted paint.

CA Visual Arts Standards Addressed: Grades 9-12 Proficient: Creative Expression 2.1, 2.2, 2.4

2 6 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

MUSIC: British Farce in 19th Century Music

Noises Off, as a classic example of British farce, is

part of a tradition that spans many art forms, including
music. The most notable, long-performed, and critically-
acclaimed form of musical farce has its origins in 19th
century Britain. Two composers, whose collaboration
lasted for over 25 years, engraved on the hearts of
concert-going audiences a love of musical farce. They
were librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan.
Gilbert and Sullivan’s 14 light comic operas—known to
fans and devotees as “G & S” operettas—bridged the
gap between opera seria (serious opera) and what is
now known as modern musical theatre. Their work has
formed lasting impressions upon the musical world, and
influenced creative minds in writing—cementing G & S
operas as true classics. Like Noises Off, G & S operas will
continue to stand the test of time, and are performed in
many countries around the globe, in multiple languages.

Notable elements of farce feature prominently in G & S

operas. These include political entanglements, clashes
between economic classes (frequently, a lower-class
person dressing above their station or vice-versa, as in
Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore,) twins, mistaken
identity, accidents of
birth, all male members of
the cast wearing novelty
clothing (in Iolanthe,
members of Parliament
wear fairy wings,) and
numerous appearances
of slapstick and physical

Like Noises Off, G & S

operas nearly all feature
romance—although the
love depicted isn’t serious,
romantic love. Farcical
love as seen in G & S is
much more irreverent,
and is often based on
shallow physical attraction,
loneliness, convenience or proximity. (In Pirates of
Penzance, young Frederick begins the opera in love with
the aged Ruth, who is the only woman he has ever seen.)
Also like Noises Off, G & S operas feature numerous
inside jokes and stabs at the political machines at work
during the era in which the work was written.

2 7 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

Savoy Theatre

But beyond thematic content, perhaps the most notable elements

CLASSROOM of G & S operas are musical memorability, provocative lyrics
CONNECTION: infused with wit and irony, and natural singability. Soaring vocal
Suggested Activities lines, rapid-fire “patter” songs (a song form made famous by
Gilbert and Sullivan,) and lush harmonies influenced composers
Out of a set of pre- such as Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, and Cole Porter. Playwrights
selected venues in the cite their inspiration in the musical genius of Gilbert and Sullivan
US and abroad, ask as well. Noel Coward wrote, “I was born into a generation that still
students to select one took light music seriously. The lyrics and melodies of Gilbert and
and give a detailed Sullivan were hummed and strummed into my consciousness at an
historical account of its early age. My father sang them, my mother played them, my nurse,
history. Include pertinent Emma, breathed them through her teeth...My aunts and uncles...
architectural details, sang them singly and in unison at the slightest provocation...”
noted productions, and
companies in residence, The pre-eminent G & S production company, D’Oyly Carte, has
infamous stories, and made it their mission to present the works of G & S. They perform
interesting anecdotes. Britain’s famous Savoy Theatre. Historically important as the
Be certain that students theatre built in 1881 for Gilbert and Sullivan themselves, the Savoy
include an examination has hosted numerous productions of G & S operas. (Its first was the
of the musical styles debut of Patience.) Over 100 years later, in 1982, the Savoy hosted
featured at the venue, a little-known but now-famous play by a man named Michael Frayn.
and a description of The play was Noises Off. ❖
how audiences respond
to the cultural styles of For a complete list of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, listings
music heard there. of performing companies in your area, and other biological
information, consult the official G & S archive at: http://math. or view D’Oyly Carte’s website at: http://

CA Music Standards: Grades 9-12 Proficient; Historical and Cultural Context 3.1, Aesthetic Valuing 4.3.

2 8 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season



Bermel, Prof. Albert. Farce: A History from Aristophanes to Woody Allen. Southern Illinois University Press, 1990.
Davis, Jessica. Farce (Classics in Communication and Mass Culture Series). Transaction Publishers, 2002.
Frayn, Michael. Constructions. Faber and Faber, 2009
Frayn, Michael. Copenhagen. Anchor, 2000
Frayn, Michael. Noises Off. Anchor, 2002
Gordon, Mel. Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia dell’Arte. PAJ Publications, 2001.
Dorries, Matthias. Michael Frayn’s ‘Copenhagen’ in Debate: Historical Essays and Documents on the 1941
Meeting Between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. University of California, Berkeley, 2005.
Moseley, Merritt. Understanding Michael Frayn (Understanding Contemporary British Literature).
University of South Carolina Press, 2006.
Rudlin, John. Commedia Dell’Arte: An Actor’s Handbook. Routledge, 2994.


Michael Frayn - biography
Michael Frayn on IMDB
Tom Lehrer (Musical Farce)
D’Oyly Carte
Gilbert and Sullivan Archive
Commedia Dell’Arte - Resources by Judith Chaffee


Coward, Noel. Blithe Spirit: An Improbably Farce (Classic Drama) Naxos Audiobooks, 2002
Noises Off, 1992. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Denholm Elliott,
Julie Hagerty, Marilu Henner.
Clue, 1985. Directed by Jonathan Lynn. Starring Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Michael
Bloody Good British Comedies (Clockwise/Are You Being Served? The Movie/The Best of Benny Hill), 1986.
Compilation by numerous Directors, starring actors such as John Cleese, John Inman, Mollie Sugden,
Frank Thornton, Trevor Bannister.
Charlie Rose with Michael Frayn, June 14 2000. DVD version of television interview between Charlie Rose
and Michael Frayn.

2 9 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

About Theatre Arts

Being an Audience Theatre Vocabulary

Member These terms will be included in pre- and post-performance discussions
at A Noise Within.
Today, movies and television
take audiences away from blocking: The instructions a proscenium stage: There is
what was once director gives his actors that tell usually a front curtain on a
the number one form of them how and where to move in proscenium stage. The audience
entertainment: going to the relation to each other or to the views the play from the front
theatre. But attending a live set in a particular scene. through a “frame” called the
performance is still one of proscenium arch. In this scenario,
the most thrilling and active character: The personality or part all audience members have the
forms of spending time. portrayed by an actor on stage. same view of the actors.
In a theatre, observers are
catapulted into the action, conflict: The opposition of people set: The physical world created
especially at an intimate or forces which causes the play’s on stage in which the action of
venue like A Noise Within, rising action. the play takes place.
whose thrust stage reaches
out into the audience and dramatic irony: A dramatic setting: The environment in which
whose actors can see, hear, technique used by a writer in a play takes place. It may include
and feel the response of the which a character is unaware of the historical period as well as the
crowd. Although playhouses something the audience knows. physical space.
in the past could sometimes
be rowdy, participating in genre: Literally, “kind” or “type.” stage areas: The stage is divided
the performance by giving In literary terms, genre refers to into areas to help the director to
respect and attention to the main types of literary form, note where action will take place.
the actors is the most principally comedy and tragedy.
appropriate behavior at Upstage is the area furthest
It can also refer to forms that are
a theatrical performance from the audience. Downstage
more specific to a given historical
today. Shouting out (or even is the area closest to the
era, such as the revenge tragedy,
whispering) can be heard audience. Center stage defines
or to more specific sub-genres
throughout the auditorium, the middle of the playing
of tragedy and comedy such as
as can rustling paper or space. Stage left is the actor’s
the comedy of manners, farce or
ringing phones. left as he faces the audience.
social drama.
Stage right is the actor’s right
After A Noise Within’s as he faces the audience.
motivation: The situation or
performance of Noises mood which initiates an action.
Off, you will have the theme: The overarching message
Actors often look for their
opportunity to discuss the or main idea of a literary or
“motivation” when they try to
play’s content and style with dramatic work. A recurring idea in
dissect how a character thinks or
the performing artists and a play or story.
directors. You may wish to
remind students to observe thrust stage: A stage that juts
props: Items carried on stage
the performance carefully out into the audience seating
by an actor to represent objects
or to compile questions area so that patrons are seated
mentioned in or implied by the
ahead of time so they are on three sides. In this scenario,
script. Sometimes the props
prepared to participate in audience members see the play
are actual, sometimes they are
the discussion. from varying viewpoints. A Noise
manufactured in the theatre shop.
Within features a thrust stage.

3 0 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

About A Noise Within

A Noise Within’s mission is to trained, and many hold Master of Study Guides
produce the great works of world Fine Arts degrees from some of the A Noise Within creates
drama in rotating repertory, nation’s most respected institutions, California standards-
with a company of professional, such as Juilliard, Yale, and the compliant study guides to
classically- trained actors. A Noise American Conservatory Theatre. help educators prepare
Within educates the public through their students for their
comprehensive outreach efforts and In its fourteen-year history, A visit to our theatre. Study
conservatory training programs that Noise Within has garnered over guides are available at no
foster a deeper understanding and 500 awards and commendations, extra cost to download
appreciation of history’s greatest including the Los Angeles Drama through our website: www.
plays and playwrights. Critics’ Circle’s revered Polly All of the
Warfield Award for Excellence and information and activities
As the only company in southern the coveted Margaret Hartford outlined in these guides
California working in the repertory Award for Sustained Excellence. are designed to work in
tradition (rotating productions using compliance with Visual
a resident ensemble of professional, In 2004, A Noise Within accepted an and Performing Arts,
trained artists), A Noise Within invitation to collaborate with English Language, and
is dedicated solely to producing the Los Angeles Philharmonic other subject standards as
classical literature from authors such for a tandem performance of A set forth by the state of
as Shakespeare, Molière, Ibsen, Midsummer Night’s Dream at the California.
Shaw, and Euripides. Hollywood Bowl.
Study guides include
The company was formed in 1991 More than 25,000 individuals background information on
by founders Geoff Elliott and Julia attend productions at A Noise the plays and playwrights,
Rodriguez-Elliott, both of whom Within, annually, and between historical context, textual
were classically trained at the performances at the theatre and analysis, in-depth discussion
acclaimed American Conservatory touring productions, the company of A Noise Within’s artistic
Theatre in San Francisco. They draws 13,000 student participants interpretation of the work,
envisioned A Noise Within after to its arts education programs interviews with directors
recognizing a lack of professional, every year. Students benefit from and designers, as well
classical productions and education in-school workshops, conservatory as discussion points and
in Southern California and sought training, and an internship program, suggested classroom
out and assembled their own as well as subsidized tickets to activities. Guides from past
company of actors to meet the matinee and evening performances, seasons are also available to
need. All of A Noise Within’s discussions with artists, and state download from the website.
resident artists have been classically standards-compliant study guides.

California’s Home for the Classics

California’s Home for the Classics

Study Guide Credits
Geoff Elliott & Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, Artistic Directors
Written by Samantha Starr Administrative Office: 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91204
Production Photography by Craig Schwartz Administration: Tel 818.240.0910 / FAX 818.240.0826
Graphic Design by Christopher Komuro Website:
Box Office: 818.240.0910 ext.1

3 1 A Noise Within 2009/10 Repertory Season

California’s Home for the Classics