ACT will present the outrageous comedy Noises Off at Florence Simmons Performance Hall in April. The set for Noises Off, by Michael Frayn, is a major part of the show. This madcap farce follows a theatre troupe trying, but not exactly succeeding, to put on a play. The audience gets to see the action on and off stage, and thus the set has to be quite versatile. The two-story construction includes eight working doors and a window as well as multiple sets of stairs and a full balcony that will support several actors at once.
Garnett Gallant has spent a half a century with the theatre industry in a variety of roles, including touring the world with the National Ballet of Canada. Building has always been a favourite interest, and when ACT (a community theatre) asked for his help in designing and constructing the set for Noises Off he was glad to oblige.
Although he has been retired for a couple of years, Gallant was busy until recently with family commitments. As he says, “This is the first chance I’ve had time to volunteer.” He notes that it is great to have a few months to work on a project, at a bit slower pace than the professional arena. It’s obvious when visiting the small construction workshop that he and his team (Cyril Armstrong and Greg Ellard) are having fun—what community theatre should be about.
The set has to be constructed in many small pieces, one floor at a time, and then pieced together like a puzzle. The first floor will be built and then deconstructed and put away. Next, the second floor will be built. It won’t be until very close to opening night that all the pieces will be assembled in one place, and the finishing touches (like railings) are complete.
Gallant is primarily concerned with safety. He says it is important for not just the actors, but for the entire team, to feel secure. That the props person can place an object, or the director can ask for certain blocking, and everyone knows that the set will support them safely. The actors will only have a few days on the set to rehearse this farce, which is filled with physical comedy.
The “community” of community theatre is a big reason why Garnett Gallant says he is happy to be involved. It is not just the actors, but an entire team of stage managers and production crew (including Brenda Porter, Kate Martin and Gordon Cobb) that have come together from all over PEI to build this show. As well, ACT is very grateful that Noises Off will be sponsored by North Rustico Home Hardware. When approached by Gallant, Chris Buote (owner/operator) agreed to support the production with over $1000 worth of materials needed for the complicated set.
Noises Off, at the Florence Simmons Theatre, Holland College in Ch’town, plays April 9, 10, 11 and 15, 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 pm.