Noises Off by Michael Frayn
Newcastle Theatre Royal, 12th September 2023
I have been waiting for years for this wonderfully silly play to tour again professionally and I am delighted to say that it does not disappoint in any way, shape, or form. It is probably one of the cleverest pieces of comedy theatre I have ever seen. It appeals to theatre makers, people involved with theatre whether in the amateur or professional touring theatre but there is joy abundance for anyone to enjoy watching this very funny play when anything can and does happen.
When we first join Otstar Productions Ltd, they are running a technical rehearsal of their new production ‘Nothing On’ by Robin Housemonger which is due to open on a national tour in only a few hours. The director Lloyd Dallas (Simon Shepherd) is at his wits end keeping together his cast of disparate characters as the deadline inexorably approaches.
All of the actors have their quirks, Garry Lejeune (Dan Fredenburgh) thinks he knows best and probably thinks he should be the director, Dotty Otley (Liza Goddard) is in the twilight of her career and is living on past glories, Brooke Ashton (Lisa Ambalavanar) is very highly strung, Frederick Fellowes (Simon Coates) has just split from his wife, Belinda Blair (Lucy Robinson) is the part peacemaker, part rumourmonger, and the further Selsdon Mowbray (Matthew Kelly) can be kept from any form of alcohol the better. Trying, and failing, to keep a tight rein on everybody, the cast is made up by Stage and Company Manager Tim Allgood (Daniel Rainford) and Assistant Stage Manager Poppy Norton-Taylor (Nikhita Lesler.)
Noises Off is a farce about a farce including a farce. The technically demanding art of farce is always in the timing and this small troupe execute it exquisitely. It is a play in three acts which tells the same story but from different perspectives and the action gets more and more ridiculous as the storytakes the audience through the final rehearsal to midway through the run then on the final performance of their UK tour.
I am not going to pick out any specific actor for praise because farce, as is the nature of the beast, is very much an ensemble piece, but I will suggest my favourite two characters which are the delightfully ditzy Dotty and the raging alcoholic that is Selsdon Mowbray. All the other characters are quite marvellous too and Simon Shepherd puts in a wonderfully measured performance as put upon director, Lloyd.
The set (Simon Higlett) and lighting design (Paul Pyant) of this touring production is nothing short of wonderful allowing the audience into all the main locations in which the action is set. The sound designer (Gregory Clarke) really has his work cut out in this show with action happening all over the stage. The music, very reminiscent of the Fawlty Towers theme tune is perfect to introduce the action in all three acts of this brilliant theatrical experience.
Noises Off plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tue 12 – Sat 16 Sep 2023. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.