Signal to noise | Jo Caruana

Ahead of her performance as the aloof Brooke Ashton in the upcoming Masquerade Theatre production of Michael Frayn’s beloved farce Noises Off!, Jo Caruana tells us how she’s looking forward to the role… along with a break from the busy theatre season. 

Jo Caruana (centre) during a rehearsal for Noises Off. Clockwise: Alan Paris, Victor Debono, Stephen Oliver and Polly March
Jo Caruana (centre) during a rehearsal for Noises Off. Clockwise: Alan Paris, Victor Debono, Stephen Oliver and Polly March

What do you think makes Noises Off such an enduring and beloved play, and what do you hope to bring to it?

The first time I watched Noises Off was when Masquerade staged it locally 10 years ago – and I was instantly hooked. I’ve watched it several times since, on film and on the West End, where it recently enjoyed a run with the very talented actress Cecelia Imrie in the hilarious role of Dotty Ottley. I genuinely think it’s one of the funniest plays I have every seen.

Anyway, 10 years ago I promised myself I would be in it at some point in the future and, lucky for me, Masquerade have revived it; I was thrilled to be cast. I will be playing the rather aloof Brooke Ashton, who is mostly concerned with keeping her lenses in place for the duration of the performance.

Now, with just a few days to go, we’re all busy preparing our version of the show, and I hope it will be as well received as all the versions I have watched. I think there is something absolutely hilarious about watching a play within a play that goes terribly, terribly wrong. The stakes are always high with theatre, largely because opening night absolutely has to happen and the show simply must go on. That’s exactly what this play is all about. But, trust me, there is every opportunity for complete mayhem to ensue!    

What do you make of Anthony Bezzina’s creative direction on this production?

Tony is a total perfectionist, so I trust that the finished product will be impeccable down to the finest detail. In the meantime, we are having so much fun putting it all together and he, along with his team, is wonderful to work with.

It’s absolutely mad – especially as Act 2 is more of a choreography than a regular play. We are literally going over it again and again, but we often have to stop because we’re laughing too hard to continue. As I said, though, this final stretch will see us perfecting every last move and line, so that the show runs like a well-oiled machine by opening night.

What was it like working with the cast of this production? 

It’s a really great cast and we’re having a great time getting to know each other while running around after plates of sardines (a trademark of the show) and trying not to bump into the scenery. As with most productions, we’re working together for hours at a time, so we’ve all gotten very close very quickly. There’s a lot of trust that goes into a fast-paced show such as this as we all really rely on each other, so the fact that we really get along is helping no end.

How would you describe the theatre scene in Malta? What would you change about it? 

I feel really proud to be part of the Maltese theatre scene. I think a hell of a lot has been achieved in the last decade or so, and there’s now a lot of quality around. In fact, there’s something to watch most weekends, and it’s so exciting to see the range of theatre being produced, as well as to note that audience numbers are on the up.

Of course, a lot of credit goes to the companies who came before us, and now it falls to us to ensure we produce the sort of productions that people enjoy, whether that’s comedy, drama, physical theatre, dance, opera, musicals and so on. I think we should keep focusing on quality and training for all those involved, so as to ensure that we can keep meeting and exceeding expectations.

That said, this is no easy feat for anyone involved, especially for the producers who take on all the financial risk. We all do this during our free time and because we love it; going forward it would be great to see the continued professionalisation of the local theatre scene, as that would give us all more time and resources to dedicate to it.

What’s next for you?

It’s been a brilliantly busy season for me – starting with the Comedy Knights in December, then All New People by Masquerade at the Blue Box in February and now Noises Off this month. I have loved every second of it, but I will be taking a bit of a break now. I am building a house at the moment (well, not with my own hands but you know what I mean…), so I plan to shift my focus onto that… and I’ve also promised my three dogs longer walks once rehearsals are over! As for next season, who knows? But I am already looking forward to it. 

Noises Off will be playing at the Manoel Theatre on April 17-19, 24-26 at 19:30. The rest of the cast includes Polly March, Alan Paris, Stephen Oliver and Victor Debono. Bookings: 2124 6619, [email protected]

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