The Noises at Old Red Lion Theatre
Award-winning poet and playwright Jaqueline Saphra collaborates with her daughter, director Tamar Saphra, to tell an unusual, thought-provoking tale of fear, violence and courage. The Noises is uniquely written from the perspective of family dog Luna who, whilst living with Ma, Pa and her beloved Ellie-girl, must navigate the noises from inside and outside the world after Ma locks her inside a room.
Amy McAllister (Call the Midwife, Philomena) plays Luna. As she introduces herself through the surrounding speakers, the sound design from Tom Parkinson becomes an integral part of the entire set. Her poetic introductory speech allows us to imagine her as our protagonist, a human portraying a dog. She then enters the set, and over the next hour or so, explores her impoverished, urban background, her unwanted puppies, her triumphs (stealing shoes and sneaking chicken) and her overwhelming desire to be seen as a “good” dog.
McAllister speaks to us directly, enticing us into her canine world. Her movements, choreographed by Louise Kempton, keep her off all fours and portray a more sophisticated demeanour, complete with subtle wagging tail; soft, repetitive paw padding and scent-seeking instinctive nose twitches.
Ma is strong, the matriarch of the family, Pa is subservient and Ellie is the turbulent, rebellious teen. None of them appear on stage though, leaving McAllister in a solo acting role. The set is small: a beanbag, toy ball and blanket indicate her living space. A dirty, uneven lino floor and cracked ceiling remain static and the characters’ voices and outside sounds become the only driving beats to guide the piece along.
With just one actor, The Noises is intense. However, McAllister’s remarkable vivacity is outstanding, and she never loses the perspective of the part she’s playing. The play also does well to highlight the anxiety of parenting a defiant teenager, which ultimately leads to the dramatic climax of the story. Fully integrated audio description for the visually impaired makes the show accessible to a broader audience, and having already been long-listed for the 2017 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, this piece really deserves to be noted for its originality and its refreshingly stripped-back glitz.
Photo: Ali Wright
The Noises is at Old Red Lion Theatre from 2nd until 20th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.