You would be forgiven
for thinking that the late John Chapman's theatrical frolic
Kindly Leave the Stage predated Michael Frayn's
Noises Off. It has a sort of innocence about it as
the audience oh-so-slowly discovers that the door-slamming,
set-shaking, prompt-inducing shenanigans which it is watching with
amusement aren't the result of incompetence. Rather, it's a play
about actors playing in a play.
Confused? You're meant
This was the first play
which Baroque Theatre staged three years ago and director Adam
Morley keeps the fun bubbling over, though the second half does tend
to sag a little. The play within a play has two couples – Madge and
Charles, Sarah and Rupert. As we discover, in real life their
relationship is much more complicated.
Matters aren't helped
by an over-worked stage manager, the middle-aged actress who has
really had enough of playing other people's mothers, a stage-struck
St John's Ambulance volunteer and an elderly actor well past his
prime even before he hit the bottle. Tempers fray, people get stamped
upon, one character finds himself confined to a trunk... you can
guess the rest.
Then there's David
Shackleton as Edward, reprising his Lear ad infinitum, not to say ad
nauseam. A judicious dash of the Sindens as well as the Wolfits and
Oliviers here as he stumbles over the furniture and the other players
to amusing effect. Drunk scenes are difficult to pull off effectively,
but Shackleton manages it.