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Ham Sandwich prepares to show all sides for bold new show

Flin Flon’s longest-running acting troupe is preparing what may be its most ambitious show yet - a play considered one of the most complex and difficult to execute.

Flin Flon’s longest-running acting troupe is preparing what may be its most ambitious show yet - a play considered one of the most complex and difficult to execute.

Ham Sandwich will present “Noises Off” March 15-16 at the R.H. Channing Auditorium. The play, originally released in 1982 and written by British playwright Michael Frayn, is considered to be one of the very hardest to stage in contemporary canon - it shows the trials and tribulations of a small, mostly inept theatre company putting on a British farce, while also showing the backstage intrigue, lives and entanglements of the actors and cast. Almost every character performs two roles in the show, usually what they perform in the play and the actor performing it - which is a different role in itself. The base of the show includes Flin Flon talent - an all-local cast and production crew - acting as actors in the play and acting as those actors acting in a separate play-within-a-play - a hard trapeze, slathered with narrative and meta-narrative, for any cast to walk.

Tanisha Weseen, Alain Lachapelle, Anna Harrison, Mark Wendlandt, Miranda Bowman and Tom Heine all play multiple characters - an actor in the play and the role that actor has within it. Mike Spencer, Leslie Fernandes and Lana Leclerc all take part in single roles. The production team, including set designers, carpenters, wardrobe and the like is also 100 per cent local.

The husband-and-wife duo of Susan Gunn Saray and Raphael Saray are filling the director’s chair for the show, both with their own extensive histories in performance. Susan has acted, danced, sang and performed in events both in Flin Flon and in Winnipeg, while Raphael, a radio host by day, is a published playwright and director whose shows were performed several times at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival to rave reviews. Both studied theatre in university.

“It’s quite an incredible triumph for Ham Sandwich, because this is regarded to be the hardest play to stage. We're going ahead and making the attempt to do this beast and do it justice,” said Susan.

“I saw the film version of it in Grade 9 and I always wanted to be a part of it in some way,” added Raphael.

“I did some theatre stuff in Winnipeg and we didn't have the money or the cast or the wherewithal or the space to do it. When I saw the backstage crew and the talent that we have on stage here, I knew it was possible, but it's still very ambitious.”

In preparation for the show, the floor of the R.H. Channing Auditorium was a hive of activity last week. Extra touches were being put on the show during what would be one of the final rehearsals before showtime. Actors worked on lines and scenes while pieces of the set were being assembled and fitted together - the show’s premise means that set designers have had to build set pieces that flip around to create a second on-stage environment, something the directors say the cast has called the “ballet”.

Wardrobe pieces still needed to come in, as did a variety of props and other pieces for the final show - Saray joked that one of the actors, who was out of town during the rehearsal, was asked to pick up some items at a thrift shop before coming back that could help flesh out the set.

“We're showing you the complete opposite of what we normally show and the back part of this stage, when it flips around for the parts that take place backstage, we're not doing anything to pretty it up - you're seeing pretty much what it looks like, from the back. It's really interesting - we're kind of doing that,” said Susan.

“We spin around and you get to see backstage of the production where all the real mayhem happens - it is sort of this very Inception, dream-inside-a-dream, play-inside-a-play-inside-a-play. It requires a lot of timing,” said Raphael.

The directors say this show is the most ambitious production the group has taken on in recent years, somewhere closer to a Flin Flon Community Choir musical than other productions done by the group in recent years.

“I think this is the biggest, most ambitious show - set-wise, cast-wise, the amount of timing amount of rehearsal… I think the bar has been sort of raised here and I think we are ready to vault it,” said Raphael.

The show is meant to get crowds laughing and seeing the stage in a way they may not otherwise see it as spectators - to see a show as a machine with many moving parts, most of which operate sight unseen. To do justice to the source material, the directors and cast will need to showcase new skills and sides of themselves - something they think they can pull off come showtime.

“I saw everything that we did and we had. I think if we draw the best out of everyone, it’s doable. We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t have the horses onstage and backstage to pull it all together, with our set designers, our props people, the actors and their timing, their passion, their dedication, their will, I knew we were able to do it,” said Raphael.

“Once we work everything out and they bring what they bring to it, at the end, you sit as the director and you just laugh your balls off at it every time.”

Tickets can be bought at the Uptown Emporium, the Flin Flon Arts Council website via Showpass or at the door on either night of the production.

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