Noises Off turns on the fun at Chemainus Theatre

The Chemainus Theatre Festival's latest production, Noises Off, has been called "the funniest farce ever written."

Long-time Chemainus Theatre actor Anita Wittenberg is returning to the stage she graced for 11 years.

She’ll play cheerful and sensible Belinda Blair in a Chemainus Theatre Festival presentation of Noises Off, a farce written by English playwright Michael Frayn.

The veteran actor’s last role before leaving for Kamloops with husband Jeremy Tow was in Mr. Pym Passes By in spring 2009.

After three years away, it’s wonderful to be back, she says.

Is her return bittersweet?

“It’s more sweet than bitter. It’s an opportunity to say thank you and to hug a very supportive community,” she muses. Her husband and former Chemainus Theatre director Tow died in 2010.

“There are warm, wonderful connections here.”

Noises Off takes its name from the theatrical stage direction indicating sounds that are meant to originate offstage. And it’s a fitting title for the non-stop, boisterous script that follows a haphazard North American acting company’s courageous, yet doomed, scramble to make its British sex comedy Nothing On a Broadway hit.

Inevitably, things do not go well on the journey through dress rehearsal to closing night, and it’s chaos backstage.

Everything that can go wrong does, and no slapstick nuance is left untapped, as actors and crew trip over a tangle of love lines, missed cues and lost hope.

Will the troupe succeed, or will they simply kill each other before closing night? Who can say — between the mangled lines, fast-flying sardines and slamming doors?

Written in 1982, Noises Off has been praised as “the funniest farce ever written” by the New York Post.

Produced in association with Eastern Canada Theatre in Kamloops, the play ran there for 10 days in March.

Says artistic and show director Daryl Cloran: “It’s a play that could easily go too far into absurdity if careful attention isn’t given to the pace and motivations behind each characters’ antics.”

“I think our actors deliver.”

Noises Off runs at the Chemainus Theatre until June 2.

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at 1-800-565-7738 or in person at the Chemainus Theatre Festival box office.

Noises Off contains strong language and is suggested for theatre-goers aged 13 and older.