I’ve seen several productions of Noises Off, including its first West End run at The Savoy Theatre in 1982, so you may have got the hint that I rather like this play by Michael Frayn. This new production at The Old Vic, directed by Lindsay Posner more than does it justice.
Noises Off is a play within a play, where a third rate travelling theatre company are performing in a typically clichéd farce entitled Nothing On. Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of Nothing On. The first act is set during the dress rehearsal in Weston-super-Mare where a lot can and does go wrong, whilst the second act is seen from behind the stage during a performance in Goole and the third shows the play being performed a couple of months later in Stockton-on-Tees. This time the script has been changed; real life and farce have merged into a surreal variant on the original. Add to this mix personal friction within the cast brought about by various sexual liaisons and the whole effect is hilarious, especially when performed by the excellent company of actors here at The Old Vic.
The wonderful Celia Imrie excels as Dolly Otley, whose ‘char’ character, Mrs. Clackett, has her work cut out remembering whether or not a plate of sardines should be on or off stage, whilst Robert Glenister hits just the right note playing the harassed director, Lloyd Dallas. Every other member of the cast deserves a mention, especially Jamie Glover who as Garry Lejeune is always stuttering and completing sentences with “you know” but whilst in character as Roger Trampleman has no such speech affectations, Jonathan Coy, playing Frederick Fellows an actor with a serious fear of violence and blood who constantly blames himself when things go wrong and Amy Nuttall who as Brooke Ashton, the inexperienced and dumb actress, is forever searching for her lost contact lenses. I also particularly enjoyed Paul Ready’s Tim Allgood, the overworked Stage Manager and Understudy.
Noises Off is a perfect way to forget all life’s problems and have a bloody good laugh.