Pam Ann: Around the World - Panasonic Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Runs in Toronto until June 23rd 2012. Tour continues to Provincetown, MA and Australia
Noises Off - The Old Vic at Novello Theatre - London, UK - **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Michael Frayn, Directed by Lindsay Posner
Runs until June 30th 2012
Is comedy all about expectations? Being surprised or shocked by the punchline, by a pratfall, by an unexpected look that we have to laugh? Sometimes we'll even laugh at something totally expected, something that has been building up that we all know is coming, with the set up as part of the delight in the joke.
What if those expectations have been elevated by all the buzz before the show? Where reviews have showered a show with praise for its comedic prowess, or when friends tell you that you MUST see this because it's HILARIOUS? Only to watch it yourself and wonder, where's the funny?
I've heard about the play Noises Off for a long time, but I've never actually seen or read it, until I finally got a chance to finally see a much lauded production by The Old Vic when I was on a layover in London this week. During the flight, all the staff were talking about seeing Pam Ann (And if you don't know me, you may not have realized that I am part of that airline staff, and how I get around the world so much!). I've heard about Pam Ann for years from friends and colleagues but managed to never even see a youtube video, but alas, she's in Toronto for 3 nights with her latest tour, just in time to kick off Pride Week here and I got a chance to hop on board.
So expectations were high for Pam Ann, the alter ego of Australian comedian Caroline Reid, a (horny, although that's a bit redundant) flight attendant in a class of her own. If you thought the flight attendants were bitchy on your flight, wait until you meet Pam Ann! She's vulgar, foulmouthed, and offensive. Basically, she's everything we wish we could be when we're in the air!
Throwing in some local news events from the day, Pam Ann manages to mix in improvised (or quickly written jokes) into her larger comedy act that is basically a drag queen show without the actual drag, doing a comedy set, all while pushing a bar cart in a tight uniform. And boy does she serve it up. No one goes un-skewered, as she spits out hysterical, if extremely politically incorrect zingers about every ethnicity, every class, and every airline. And girl has done her research, as she equally knocks down each and every Canadian airline she can think of, getting hoots and hollers as an airline industry heavy audience recognizes the stereotypes Pam Ann bitingly chews through. Air Canada, West Jet, Porter, Air Transat, Jazz, Sunwing. Every airline gets bitchslapped while Pam Ann adds in stories of British Airways, Austrian, Lufthansa, Delta and more. She's nailed the eccentricities of the passengers, and the particularities of each airline.
Maybe it's because I work in the industry, but I was in tears laughing, as everything Pam Ann said seemed to nail it right on the head. But I imagine anybody who has worked in a service industry, anybody who has flown on a plane, anybody who has stepped foot in an airport, will get what Pam Ann is making fun of. Because who hasn't been stuck in economy and tried to sneak a peak up to first class?
The Old Vic's production of Frayn's classic stage comedy Noises Off received glowing reviews in its original run, and thus transfered to the West End. I managed to catch Noises Off for my first experience with the play, which was met with tiny grins and smiles but little laughter. Even the Guardian wrote about elevated expectations from critics, though when I went to see the show, even most fellow audience members around me seemed to remain relatively quiet. Maybe it's because I was up top in the balcony looking down at the top of the actors heads, not being able to see the subtleties in their facial features, but from what I could gather, this is not a play of subtleties.
The cast seemed good, with no one seemingly awful, though no one seemingly stood out either (which may be a good thing in an ensemble comedy anyways). The direction seemed fine, and I couldn't really object to the timing. Frayn's play about the final rehearsal and then the backstage antics of a play, one with lots of slamming doors and mistaken identities, had all the classic comedy set ups in place, but with the entire first act being a rehearsal of the silly play within the play, it made for a very long set up to the actual "noises off" portion in the second act. The build up and the payoff never seemed to reach the level of zany hysterics I had heard about, and while it made me smile, I never laughed out loud once, and found it overall underwhelming. I laughed far more in The Sunshine Boys (a play essentially about retirement) around the block at the Savoy, or even at the recent revival of Don't Dress for Dinner on Broadway (which incidentally, reminded me of the play within Noises Off). By the time the action on stage had reached a full zany zenith (based on the amount of running around by the cast), it had been so long awaited, the punchline had already flatlined by then.
Photo of Noises Off by Tristram Kenton
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com
More After the Jump...