"All about doors and sardines"

More so, when we are in the know that this play-within-a-play’s first act is a riotous technical rehearsal with an eccentric cast who are all headed in different directions.

A rehearsal still of Noises Off at Prithvi Theatre. Pic/ Madeeha Attari

Before you start musing over the chicken-before-the-egg conundrum, let’s bring you up to speed. Noises Off is a comical farce written by Michael Frayn who premises the plot on a zealous and high-strung director, Lloyd Dallas who is trying to put together actors that are perched up on their respective hobbyhorses. Accenting the madness, the poor Lloyd is set to bring a sex comedy, mischievously titled, Nothing On, to life.

So as we perch on the Prithvi blue benches, Atul Kumar struts into the room hollering to get the rehearsal going. After a few hiccups with the sound, a perky actress enters on stage playing the comely stereotype of Dotty the housekeeper. She answers the phone as is her duty, but with the momentous click, the confusion over a newspaper, receiver and the lovely sardines ensues as poor Dotty has only two hands and a goofy mind to boot.

Cutting through the cacophony, Lloyd sits amongst the audience yelling instructions at Dotty. Somewhere around Tariq Vasudeva’s Freddy who is trying to put the empty apartment to good use with his wife is stuck between doors that won’t close and open. As the cast loses itself to craziness, poor Lloyd exclaims, “Life is all about doors and sardines.”

Chuckling over the fishy comment, the boisterous Kumar tells Lloyd, “You know how directors are, while explaining they are almost jumping onto stage.” And, as is the director’s wont, Kumar in the blink of an eye, is on stage. Why Noises Off we asked when Kumar caught his breath between the madness, “It is one of my favourite comedies about life and doings of a theatre group and backstage activity where everything that can go wrong goes wrong thereby making it absolutely hilarious.”

Methodical, rigorous and indefatigable, Kumar flits between cajolement and reproach throughout the rehearsal. No wonder then The Company Theatre’s Kamshet space is a much-needed sanctuary for Kumar to work on his plays including Noises Off. Commenting on the backstage hysteria, Kumar opines, “All my plays have had a much more backstage world than the on stage performance. Half of the reason why people do theatre is because of this backstage energy and ethos.”

Further, Kumar confesses, “I fell in love with theatre because I loved the lights around the mirror in greenrooms, my seven-year-old daughter takes hours putting on make-up and costumes and hanging out with actors in green rooms and wings for hours and finally, when she comes on stage she starts feeling sleepy…that is so lovely.”

With production being a major challenge, the team has built an elaborate set to ensure that the sardines don’t put a no-show and the doors would definitely close.

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