I think because I’ve spent so much of my working life in a darkened auditorium trying to make plays go right I particularly enjoy plays about things going wrong. They are always fun to work on because the situations, the characters and the predicaments they get into are so familiar for actors and directors and it also feels like an opportunity to let an audience into the madness and mayhem of our peculiar working world.
What are the particular pitfalls to be avoided with Noises Off?
Well as Lloyd the director in the play says: “ it’s all about getting the sardines on and getting the sardines off. That’s farce, that’s theatre, that’s life”. The play the company is playing in Noises Off, a traditional farce called Nothing On, is a Brian Rix type trouser- dropping spiral of confusion with a very broad playing style. It’s important that this playing style doesn’t creep into the playing of the actors themselves, who, despite being very "luvvie" have their own fears and anxieties which the audience has to understand and invest in, in order to appreciate the currents of jealousy and rivalry backstage. If these stories aren’t clear it can’t be funny. After that it’s all down to timing.
How do you ensure that an audience of ordinary play-goers gets all of the in-jokes?
I don’t think there’s anything in the play that an audience of playgoers wouldn’t get. In-jokes are always deathly on stage and although part of the fun for the audience is to see life from the other side of the set, the characters and the story are all immediately accessible.
Where do you feel this play fits in the sequence of Michael Frayn's works for the stage and how comfortably?
I don’t know all his plays but I think this one is unlike anything else he’s done – partly because it depends on physical comedy and action as much as the verbal ingenuity and wit which are his trademarks
In a recession, what types of play most attracts an audience, and why?
Well the great news for our business seems to be that the theatre is recession-proof. I have heard it argued that people have stepped down their luxury expectations in favour of more reasonably-priced theatre tickets – so that the recession therefore may even have helped the theatre. There is no doubt that comedies and musicals have been programmed more regularly in this and other theatres, but there seems to be a robust appetite also for new and experimental work which is bringing in good audiences to the other strands of our programming here at the New Wolsey and indeed elsewhere.
Peter Rowe is the artistic director of the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich