Noises Off, in a West End transfer from the Lyric Hammersmith, was first staged in 1982 but remains a hilarious peek into the politics of a theatre company on its last legs. Now in residence at the Garrick Theatre, the three acts are fast-paced and have all the elements of a traditional farce – plus sardines!
This motley bunch of travelling players are performing a production of “Nothing On” (cleverly the programme includes a programme of said show which offers additional light amusement). In front of the footlights, lines are forgotten, props are swapped, doors get stuck, trousers fall down, and there are lots of pratfalls and tumbles.
Michael Frayn’s play is constructed in three acts: a final, chaotic rehearsal in the small hours; a performance seen from backstage; a performance seen from front of house. Actors and director squabble, ignore each other, have furtive love affairs, and spend a lot of time going up and down stairs.
With doors, bags, boxes, trips, food, windows, missed cues and odd costume changes – plus a couple of neurotic players, one who needs every twist in the plot justified, and one who is on the edge of hysterics – there is much to amuse those watching Noises Off/Nothing On.
Note though that from the extreme end of the grand circle rows (low numbers) you will miss some of the business going on in act two. I was able to move a bit more centrally but bear this in mind if booking the cheaper options.
In farce, timing is everything, and the ensemble cast were perfection: Lloyd Owen’s exasperated director, Meera Syal’s Dotty and her sardines, Sarah Hadland’s peacemaker, Daniel Rigby’s emotionally unstable leading juvenile, Simon Rouse’s hard of hearing company drunk, Lisa McGrillis’s scatty ingenue, Richard Henders’s faded star turn with a tendency to faint at blood.
Jeremy Herrin directs with a light and accomplished touch, with supporting nods going to his designers – Max Jones (set and costumes), Tim Lutkin (lighting) and Ella Wahlstrom (sound). Put simply, Noises Off is a delightful revival you may wish to consider as a festive treat.
Noises Off continues at the Garrick Theatre until 4 January. Photo credits Helen Maybanks.
LouReviews purchased a discounted ticket to see Noises Off.