If ever there was a time to escape reality and just have a good old belly laugh, then you may just want to head to the theatre and see what has been described as the best farce EVER written. Noises Off cast member Emily Goddard graciously took some time out of busy schedule to chat about this incredible show, the pressure to uphold such a title as ‘best farce ever written’ and what makes her laugh. It’s the simple things in life, but comedy really is the best remedy.
You’re wrapping up the Brisbane season of Noises Off. What has been a season highlight for you?
We’ve been in Brisbane for nine weeks now, with rehearsals and the season. There have been so many moments of hilarity during that time that choosing one feels impossible. In rehearsals, the moments I loved the most were when the rehearsal of the show mirrored the rehearsal in the show – act one of Noises Off is a final dress rehearsal of a play called Nothing On. One day one of the actors asked me what his line was for when he was asking me what his line was. Makes you realise that though this is a farce, Michael Frayn’s characters aren’t all that far from the truth!! My favourite moment in the season I think has to have been the very first preview. A play this technically demanding begins to feel very unfunny when you rehearse it six days a week for six weeks without an audience. Feeling the laughter coming like big waves towards us with our first audience was pretty incredible.
What can Melbourne audiences expect, and what vibrancy are you going to bring to keep it fresh?
Audiences can expect doors, sardines, more doors, more sardines, some love triangles, dropped pants, a cactus, an axe and nine hapless thespians trying to put on a show. I warned my parents to please go to the bathroom pre-show and interval, and anyone who doesn’t have waterproof mascara should invest in some. In terms of vibrancy to keep the show fresh, Noises Off requires such pace and precision that all of us are constantly in a state of mild terror. The feeling that things could go wrong at any moment keeps things fresh indeed, and even if we did this show for a year I think we’d still feel like it sat on the edge of catastrophe. That’s the glorious nature of it and what makes it so exciting.
This is said to be the funniest play ever written, which can hold a lot of pressure for you as a company. Do you think you’ve managed to uphold that title?
All I can say is I’ve never heard such constant, unhinged laughter coming from an audience before. Michael Frayn has written a comic masterpiece.
Comedy can seem like an easy genre to execute but what is one of the biggest misconceptions about that, and ensuring what is meant to be funny actually is?
We were promised an ‘unfair amount of fun’ rehearsing this play on day one in Brisbane and quickly realised why it is actually one of the most notoriously difficult plays to rehearse. Comedy, particularly farce, particularly Noises Off, requires such technical precision and timing is paramount. Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Sam Strong has described it as ‘the Swiss watch of comedy’. It’s particularly difficult for the six actors playing the actors in Nothing On, who have to perform the same act three times in completely different ways. But rest assured, we’re all having an unfair amount of fun now!
You are a part of an ensemble of very funny people. How do you all balance trying to “out-funny” each other not necessarily when you’re in show mode, but just in your downtime?
It’s all fun and games until someone’s laugh gets cut! They are all very funny and I think Sam has done an amazing job of orchestrating our offers so that the story is always the star. Offstage well, all I’ll say is I would watch a sitcom about a group of actors doing Noises Off any day.
How has your training at Ecole Philippe Gaulier prepared you for a show like this, and what have you drawn on most from your studies?
Gaulier’s main philosophy is that an actor must always have pleasure on stage. If pleasure dies, theatre becomes boring. That’s true for any style he teaches and any kind of theatre, and I draw on that for all the parts I play. I think for Noises Off it’s been about finding the most fun version of Poppy I can, and also finding the fun and connection (or as Gaulier would say complicite) with the others actors. It’s such an ensemble piece and our parts are so wound up in each other’s that we can’t afford to approach it as nine separate actors on stage. I’ve drawn on my Gaulier clown training for Poppy too. It probably helps that my own clown is also an apologetic cry baby on the verge of a nervous breakdown!
This show can very much be a relatable piece of work for any actor. What have you connected with the most in the story, and why?
All of the characters of Noises Off are really loveable and I think part of the reason is that they’re all trying very hard to do their best when everything is seemingly (and actually) falling down around them. They’re all heavily invested in this show, as all actors are when we’re working on a project. There is a misconception that acting is a glamorous profession, but very often we’re working with a huge amount of obstacles and want more than anything for the show to work. A friend came to the show a few weeks ago and said he’d recently been on tour and many of the problems in the play had happened to his cast; two weeks to rehearse, broken doors, dropped lines, actors fighting, directors bellowing into a microphone. There is something magical about the theatre when we all work together and somehow it all falls into place. Except for the poor Nothing On team. They may never return to the theatre again!
Your character Poppy Norton-Taylor is a Stage Manager in the show. Any thoughts of going into this part of the theatre if you choose to retire as an actor ever?!
Never! Poppy is a pretty hopeless Stage Manager, which is probably why I was cast! How on Earth does someone do and remember so much, listen to so many people, answer so many questions, remain calm, then cue a show?! Superheroes, they are.
Who is one of your favourite comedians? Why?
Sarah Silverman. She’s the perfect combination of smart, silly and wrong.
What makes you laugh?
Funny names, funny laughs, videos of people falling over and my nephews.
Noises Off opens in Melbourne on Wednesday July 12th at the Arts Centre Melbourne Playhouse. For tickets and more info, head here.