Last Thursday I attended the Gladstone’s production of Noises Off on behalf of (Cult)ure Magazine (my review can be read here). While I realize that all the characters in Michael Frayn’s play are two dimensional archetypes, used as vehicles to drive the comedy, I was particularly disappointed with Frayn’s depiction of women in this well known comedy.
Frayn has written a collection of ditzes and doormats falling on comedic stereotypes that were dated long before Frayn wrote his script. I find this particularly frustrating as an audience member because comedies have been recycling these stereotypical female characters for so long that they have become worse than clichés. Quite simply, there is nothing new here and comedy works best when it is founded on the unexpected.
On a personal note, I am friends with two of the actresses who performed in Noises Off both of whom are fine actresses. Michelle Leblanc and Colleen Sutton both impressed me at Ottawa’s Fringe and while they do an admirable job with what they are given in this play, Frayn has given them very little to work with. That’s a shame.
Offstage, both these women are the furthest thing from either ditz or doormat. They are intelligent, vibrant women, who are extremely dedicated to their craft. They are not alone. This town is blessed with a large collection of talented actresses and yet sometimes there seems to be a shortage of roles where these actresses can really shine.
I would encourage all the theatres, and theatre companies, in Ottawa to consider this when selecting the scripts they will perform. No more ditzes and doormats! Let’s see some vibrant female characters on the stage that will push the actresses playing them to new heights.