IN what turned out to be a good omen for the members of the College Players ahead of their latest production, veteran actor Patricia Routledge appeared in conversation on the Lime Tree stage they will inhabit next week.
Hyacinth Bucket herself, you see, had appeared in a performance of Noises Off by Michael Frayn, which the theatre company is preparing to stage in the Lime Tree as its annual production.
The company found time to pick Routledge’s brains on the show, a manic menagerie that features a cast of jobbing actors, doors slamming, on and offstage intrigue and numerous plates of sardines.
Well known actor turned director for the show, Dave Griffin, also previously appeared in a production of Noises Off and selected it for his directorial debut - the show sticking in his brain for its hilarity and double sided glimpse into a stage show.
The play within a play, Griffin laughs, has been a “baptism of fire” to prepare, featuring an elaborate setting made standard by College Players in recent years.
“Frayne told the story of being at a play and something happened backstage and he was trying to figure out what was going on while everything was happening up front,” he said.
“The idea was to create a production that actually reveals what happens back stage and he devised that,” adds Dave.
The production team were lucky - and are indebted - to Ray O’Halloran, who allowed them to rehearse with the full set in his City Build in Cahill May Roberts building.
“It is the kind of play that you couldn’t rehearse on the flat. We have a double height set, we have stairs, doors on both levels, we have all sorts of shenanigans going on backstage. It is just a crazy, manic, hilariously - but brilliantly - conceived piece of theatre,” explains Dave.
“We are really lucky to have the likes of Gerry Lombard - an architect and designer in his own right - to work on the design aspects of it, and then a great crew to come together.
“Over the years, you start to build a standard and grow it - any time we do something now, it has to meet that.
“Having done those great shows on very elaborate sets, comedies have been successful for us and they do work well when you have a great space in which to perform a great script. We love the whole idea of bringing it all together and we have been blessed with a great team to help realise it.”